Ruminations, Musings, Expressions

“I’m willing to admit that I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong” — Samuel Goldwyn

Author: HBS

Plastic ‘Waste’, Growing Hemp, Organic Farming, and Water

[Note: This article was written in 2016. The propositions advanced still remain valid as of 2019]

How are plastic waste, growing hemp, organic farming, and water, connected?

The fabric of life is built up of many threads, which are supposed to combine to make a wondrous fabric. However the generation of waste and dealing with it, makes an ugly tear in the fabric, and patchwork does not work.

We have a tendency to view things in isolation, whereas everything in the universe is inter-connected. What is considered as ‘waste’ is the starting point for something that is useful, and so on, till we arrive at a state of zero-waste. Nature does not waste anything, only man does.

So a solution is produced for one ‘problem’, without taking into account interconnections with that ‘problem’, and in the end we have produced more problems than solutions.

Shall be joining some dots to put some things into perspective. As always, the viewpoint is India-centric, but the solutions can be applied anywhere.

Plastic ‘Waste’ to no landfill and no pollution

This  is a world-wide problem and has solutions. Banning plastics is not a solution. Dealing with plastic waste as a resource is. Taking a somewhat contrarian view I am proposing that till alternatives are developed to the use of plastic packaging and products, plastic waste be used as a valuable resource.

What we see around us are two things, civic illiteracy which makes us throw things (especially polythene bags, plastic products, paper, etc.) on the streets, and civic inefficiency in collection of that waste.

Political parties display a lot of zeal when it comes to renaming cities. That zeal is missing when it concerns improving the quality of life of citizens. If political parties had to pay from their coffers for properties vandalised and damaged, business lost, and the cost of re-printing stationery of hundreds of thousands of businesses, they would lose a lot of their enthusiasm for re-naming. Airports and stations are given grand names, which are then reduced to acronyms, and the places are still referred to by their old names.

As per a survey conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 60 cities of the country, the quantum of plastic waste generation is estimated to be 15,342.6 tonnes per day, or 5,600,000 tonnes per year. The total may be much more.

“We are the first to have the capability to convert 1 tonne of broken buckets, mugs, toothpaste tubes, bottle caps and other polyolefin products into 850 litres of the cleanest grade of diesel. This is the best news yet for the planet this year because henceforth plastic waste will be viewed more as a resource than a nuisance,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan at the Institute of Petroleum campus in Dehradun on 17 April 2015. (Source)

The diesel thus produced burns more cleanly than the diesel produced from crude oil.

Now to see the potential of that amount of plastic waste for India. That 5.6 million tonnes of ‘waste’ translates to 4,760,000,000 litres (or 4.76 billion litres) according to the IIP projections. The Indian Railways consume 2 billion litres annually. Commercially available plants produce ca. 600–900 litres/tonne of plastic, which would give us 3.36–5.06 billion litres. The diesel so produced, needs to be viewed as a strategic resource. Viewing it in a different way, of the total amount of diesel consumed, consumption by the railways is 3.24%, and buses 9.55%. The agriculture sector is a major consumer with about 13% of the total consumption accounted for by it. Within agriculture, the consumption is as follows: tractors (7.4%), pump-sets (2.9%) and agriculture implements (2.7%). (Source).

Also generated is 200 kilogrammes of petcoke per tonne of plastic.

Processes are also available for complete combustion of the plastic waste with no waste leftover.

A company based in Scotland offers this process for what it calls End of Life Plastics, for producing alternative  synthetic fuels, which are direct and commercially profitable liquid fuels that are direct import substitutes for fossil fuels. The have created from 1 tonne of end of life plastic, approximately 1,000 litres of liquid fuel:
— 700 litres Diesel,
— 100 litres of Kerosene,
— 200 litres of Lite Oil.

Delhi generates 251,850 tonnes of plastic every year (CPCB), which means there is a potential of 151.11 million litres of diesel and 50,370 tonnes of petcoke. Used without gasification, the petcoke generated can be used to run a 10–12 MWe plant, as per the figures of consumption for Reliance’s proposed 4×90 MWe plant, at Mora Village, in Surat district.

Waste-1Waste-2The nature of the problem is brought out in these images. Civic apathy by citizens, no segregation and collection, and inefficient municipal services, which do not allow the waste to be used as a resource. (The cows should be in a shelter and not eating rubbish. Easier to protest rather than to take up the responsibility of looking after them). So it is not plastic waste, (which includes bags), which is the culprit, and as mentioned above banning it is not the solution.

Plastic waste needs to be segregated at three levels:
(1) Homes: Bag to collect milk poly-packs, polythene bags, disposable plates and cups, water bottles, any other items like plastic wrapping used for packaging.
(2) Roadside vendors, restaurants, places of worship, shopping complexes, market places, Parks: Use red coloured bins, since the volume will be larger.
(3) Roads and streets: Red coloured bins with an efficient collection system. Involve NGO’s who can coordinate resource collectors (waste collectors).
Once bins are made available on roadsides, market places, office and shopping complexes, parks, etc., implement littering fines. Involve ex-servicemen here. (CCTV systems like the ones to be installed in Delhi, should prevent theft of bins).

Commercially available plants, with a capacity of processing 10 tonnes of plastic daily, with an output of 6,000–9,000 litres of diesel are available in India. The plants costs Rs 10–12 crores (approx 1.47–1.76 million US$), and have a payback time of 3 years.

Solution: Delhi generates at the municipality level 689.5 metric tonnes every day, (CPCB). Assuming 90% of this can be processed, Delhi would require about 62 plants of this size, so that the collecting area for that plant is within a 5–7 kilometre radius. These can be distributed all around Delhi, rather than having two or three huge plants.

Result: There will be no plastic waste to throw, which means no clogging of drains, no animals or birds ingesting it, and nothing going to a landfill. Clean diesel will become available, which can be used by a wide range of users. This would also be an employment generator.

However there is a bigger opportunity, to solve a bigger problem. Plastic waste in the oceans.

Ocean-Cleanup-Array-Boyan-SlatThis system has been devised by a 19-year old to collect plastic waste in the oceans. The headline of the article reads, 19-Year-Old Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans. To quote, ‘His ingenious solution could potentially save hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals annually, and reduce pollutants (including PCB and DDT) from building up in the food chain. It could also save millions per year, both in clean-up costs, lost tourism and damage to marine vessels.’

India can use this method and start an initiative in the oceans surrounding it. It would have three spin-offs: (1) the oceans would be cleaner, which would mean more and healthier fish, and marine life in general, (2) it would get raw material for its plastic-to-diesel industry, and (3) fishing boats can get their requirements of diesel from this source. (However should other countries decide to go in for the same initiative, there would be need to define geographical boundaries of operation).

Growing Hemp (IH)

The Hemp referred to here is Industrial Hemp. The reason why it figures here is because it is a source for bio-plastics, along with more than 25,000 products which can be made from it. Since we started this article with plastic, we shall keep our main focus on plastics which can be made with hemp.

Henry Ford swinging an axe at his 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the plastic trunk door made of soybean and hemp. (From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.)

Henry Ford swinging an axe at his 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the plastic trunk door made of soybean and hemp. (From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.)

Source: www. dfwnormal.org

Source: www. dfwnormal.org

Hemp-Everything PlasticIn case you are not aware, aside from plastics, Hemp can be used for:

Source: www.truthinsideofyou.org

Source: www.truthinsideofyou.org

Unfortunately even though the government is aware to some extent of the uses of hemp, there has been no significant investment in the growing of hemp. As things stand, it would require a significant amount of investment to get the whole hemp eco-system to be established.

Organic Farming and Urban Farming

The effort is to present solutions to cut down pollution and have zero-waste going to landfills. Have already written about this in ‘Kitchen “Waste”, Surplus Power, and No Pollution’.

The highlights of the article were total conversion of kitchen and organic waste to electricity and liquid fertilizer.

At his juncture I would like to differ with those advocating using kitchen waste for composting. Composting is good in its place, but can only be used for growing activities. Whereas, the method I have advocated, provides electricity, as well as organic fertilizer. When we say use waste as a resource, then we need to extract the maximum potential from that resource. Composting does not do that.

I had mentioned Urban Farming in that article as well. This would utilize a part of the organic fertilizer and provide organically grown fresh vegetables and greens in each locality at fair prices. There is no reason that organically grown vegetables should be sold at premium prices. Also vegetable supplies would not be hit in case of agitations and strikes.

Any surpluses can be preserved by organizations such as the one below, so that there is no wastage of fruits and vegetables, which according to some estimates is around Rs 40,000 crore per annum.

Source: Source: Adi Ayur Foods and Beverages Private Limited

Source: Adi Ayur Foods and Beverages Private Limited

Water

This is a picture of dead fish in Ulsoor Lake in Bangalore which appeared in the press. One of the reasons cited is the discharge of untreated sewage into the lake.

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Source: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Having lived in Bangalore, (renaming doesn’t sit well having used that name for over 6 decades), from 1953 to 1957, and visiting the lake a few time every month during my stay there, remember Ulsoor Lake as a beautiful place. Again a victim of civic illiteracy and civic inefficiency.

The solution for this situation, as it is all over India, is to treat sewage at localised points all over a city, and not take the sewage to a few ‘big’ sewage plants. Have a large number of water bodies for recharging ground water, as well as water sources. (Heavily penalize any real estate development over or near a water body).

This what environmentally insensitive governments have done to what was once called Najafgarh Jheel (Lake), which is another name for the Sahibi river, a tributary of the river Yamuna, which once occupied more than 300 square kilometres of area in Southwest Delhi. Read more here.

NajafgarhJheel-1Why can’t our drainage channels, (in Delhi) be waterways like this one in Holland,

holanda_amsterdaminstead of being like this.

Gandha-Nullah-1According to International Wastewater Systems: Sewage is the Ultimate Renewable Energy Source. According to their site, ‘In the search for new and sustainable energy sources few people realize that there is an energy source flowing beneath the surface of our cities. Sewage! This abundant, free energy source remains mostly untapped.’

Here is a video presentation of two of their installations.

And here is one from the Arizona State University titled ‘From Wastewater to Renewable Energy’ (June 2012). When algae are put to work cleaning up wastewater, they can produce biofuel at the same time. A team of ASU graduate students is working with the Arizona Centre for Algae Technology and Innovation to clean up the environment while creating clean, renewable energy. Their project received initial funding from the EPA’s P3 program (People, Prosperity and the Planet). The video is produced and edited by Kirk Davis, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. Additional photography by Keith Jennings and Matthew Larsen.

Solution: I don’t see municipalities investing in these processes. (Delhi recently experienced a strike by sanitary workers on account of non-payment of salaries). Companies need to come forward with entirely new PPP business models which have to break free of tripping and tipping contracts. Municipalities and land-owning authorities have to accord priority to allotting land for sewage processing facilities, and other waste-processing facilities, rather than shopping malls. (Not much use having shiny malls with no water or power).

Result: Availability of potable water, groundwater recharge, source of renewable energy for power, source of biofuel. (Tax concessions, such as no excise duty on fuels produced from waste, like the one given to biodiesel).

Citizens and the government will have to think very differently, if they want an energy rich, (the first building block of development), pollution free nation. Those beautiful smart cities and towns being thought of will have to use these processes, to remain smart, otherwise they will just be real estate ‘developments’, which will enrich a few people and impoverish the nation.

All these areas would present an excellent area of investment for humanitarian funds. These are all community focused activities, with the accent on the community rather than profits. Would be pleased to provide advice and support to any such investor/s.

Underground Money and Foreign Direct Investment

What could be the connection between Underground Money and Foreign Direct Investment.

One has the potential of unlocking the economic power of the country, and the other an immediate palliative with negative after-effects.

Another disclosure scheme for ‘unaccounted’ money, or ‘black’ money has been announced. A very small percentage of that money will be declared, and the rest will literally continue to remain underground.

[Update: 30 September 2016 has passed and the amount declared under the Income Declaration Scheme is Rs 65,250 crores disclosed by 64,275 declarants, or Rs 1.015 crore per declarant. Rs 10,000 crores more is expected once tabulation is complete, which would bring it to Rs 1.170 crore per declarant. My suggested model would have brought in much, much, more.]

[Update: 29 November 2016. A demonetisation scheme was announced on 8 November 2016, whereby currency notes with a face value of Rs 500 and 1,000, ceased to be legal tender from that date. From all reports the move does not seem to have achieved the objectives it was announced for, and according to assessment by economists the world over, will have an extremely negative effect on the Indian economy as a whole.]

These schemes do not work because in the whole scenario, the most important factor has been missed out, the human factor. A retributive scheme of taxation has never worked from the time that a system of taxation came into being, a few thousand years ago. What he have today is a carried over colonial system of taxation, which successive governments have tinkered with since 1947. Not once has any government applied their mind as to whether the money extracting system of the East India Company, or the British Raj was suited for an independent India.

No one has ever thought of the principles enunciated in the Arthashastra. These excerpts are extremely relevant today.

Ideally, the government should collect taxes like a honeybee that sucks just the right amount of honey from the flower so that both can survive. [Has this ever been followed?]

the taxing power of the state should be limited, tax should not be felt to be heavy or excessive, tax hikes should be introduced gradually, tax should be levied in the proper place, time and form, and tax level should be equitable and reasonable. [The taxation system over the last few decades has been unreasonable and inequitable].

The root of wealth is economic activity and lack of it brings material distress. In the absence of fruitful economic activity, both current prosperity and future growth are in danger of destruction. The King shall populate the countryside by creating new villages on virgin lands or reviving abandoned village sites. [The thrust on mindless urbanization, has had its consequent results of overcrowded cities, with a large percentage of the city populations living in slums. Villages need to be made self-sustaining so that villagers do not have to come to the city for work]

Economics works well with resource management, efficient administration, a fair judicial system, knowledgeable people with integrity capable of taking up high positions. [How many governments have measured up to these words of Kautilya].

For Kautilya, good governance was paramount. He suggested built-in checks and balances in systems and procedures for the containment of malpractices. Many postulates of Kautilya’s philosophy of political economy are applicable to contemporary times.

Economics is all encompassing, and not confined to an economists neat graphs, charts, equations, trends, and treating a human being as a data point. Human beings act on their feelings and emotions, and when that is neglected, one has a chaotic economy, with an unbalanced taxation system, and a country lands up with an underground economy. The strongest human emotions over the centuries have been linked to money and assets exemplified by Zar (wealth), Zameen (land), Zan (woman). [In a historical and cultural context, a woman, was equated as a possession, and still continues to be so in many societies]. Governments tread on very dangerous ground when they levy taxes without considering the human consequences. It is not an arithmetical exercise, and never will be. Governments who understand this will always have strong economies.

To come back to where we started.

India has an immense amount of underground money. According to an NIFP report, the size of the parallel economy is around 75% of the GDP. Now whether we take the nominal GDP value of 2.308 trillion dollars or 8.027 trillion dollars by Purchasing Power Parity, 75% is a fairly large amount. (October 2015 figures)

This money, which if brought into the banking system, would obviate the need for foreign direct investment to a very large extent. Without getting into the morality of naming, shaming, exposing, penalties, we need to focus on what the country requires today. Here’s an approach which I have proposed before, modified in the light of present day requirements, as a solution.

  • Issue bearer bonds with a face value of 1 crore, 10 crores, and 100 crores.
  • The bonds would bear an interest of 2.5% per annum, and be redeemable after 10 years. [Redeemed money is not to be treated as income. The income from its investment into economic activity can then be taxed].
  • No forms to be filled, no questions to be asked. Designated bank branches would receive the money, check the received amount for fake notes, count the money, and issue the bonds. [Banks would deduct a 10% handling charge to cover their costs. Identities will automatically come to the fore when the bonds come for redemption].
  • [If black money can become holy by landing up in a holy place’s coffers, it can surely become ‘white’ when it lands up in a bank vault. Money is money and has no colour].

The money so received in the banking system would be advanced to:

  • Farmers, Women Entrepreneurs, Artisans, Weavers, Self-Help Groups, Tribals, Micro-enterprises, Village-level Industries and Facilities like cold storages, food and dairy processing, animal husbandry, biomass to energy plants, health-care centres, organic farming, and so on, with an interest rate of 4% per annum, with a cap on the borrowing. To put things in perspective, money is borrowed at 2%–5% per day by vegetable and fruit vendors. [This would boost up the farm sector, the rural economy and the so-called unorganized sector. The cap would be decided by groups of people familiar with the problems in these sectors. No bureaucrat or politician should be associated with these groups. The condition is that the government cannot change the recommendations — since governments exist to carry out the will of the people].
  • Small Enterprises at an interest rate of 6% per annum, including localised renewable energy projects not exceeding 2 Megawatts.

Legislation should be brought in so that banks and micro-lending institutions can lend at these rates.

None of the money received by the banks on this account will be available to medium and large enterprises, who will use normal banking or institutional channels for their credit needs.

Have touched on this before. Nothing in an economic system works in isolation. Every activity is interconnected. To make the system work we also need to implement measures like:

  • No personal income tax, which would mean that the long list of deductions would also be scrapped. There are other ways of replacing the revenue received from personal income tax.
  • Remove service tax. [This is an unnecessary tax and has only increased the cost of services to consumers without any benefit accruing to them. The poor and the rich are affected equally].
  • Corporate income tax to be capped at 15%. [This would encourage a lot of companies to set up base in India, and provide an alternative to Hong Kong, and Singapore. Ireland functions with a tax rate of 12.5%].
  • Along with this would be required lifting the controls on foreign exchange. [Indians will not need to set up offshore companies, and a lot of those set up outside will be encouraged to come back to India].
  • GST (whenever it comes) to be capped at 5%, with no extra levies.
  • No multiple taxation.
  • Plugging of leakages in government expenditure. [The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has shown that leakages can be plugged, and the positive benefits for citizens due to this — lower cost of infrastructure, supply of basic services at an affordable cost, free healthcare, good school infrastructure. All in line with the Arthashastra].

There are a lot of supporting regulations and systems which will need to be set up and refined to support these main reforms, to reach a Singapore/Hong Kong level of efficiency, which I’m not covering here.

Have just focussed on the main points, which if set right would really make India an economic superpower and improve social conditions of all the citizens.

Request that comments be in the directions of improving on the solutions suggested, and not why these things can’t be done. We have had enough of that. Let us have people-guided solutions instead of government directed solutions.

 

Water and Electricity (thoughts expressed in 2012)

Had written this for another blog in 2012. Some things have changed, and some still haven’t. Editorial updates are in red.

Here it is.

Hindustan Times, 15 June 2012
— 900 billion litres rainfall received in a year
— 300 billion litres could have been conserved had MCD’s rainwater harvesting project been implemented.

40 surgeries put off as water crisis deepensThe Times of India, 25 June 2012

Malls shut loos, turn down ACsThe Times of India, 25 June 2012

This is not the future, this is the present, this is now.

If the citizens continue to sit back and not put pressure on those called the
‘authorities’, who are supposed to serve the citizens in any case, they will not have water and they won’t have electricity.

No sympathy is due to either mall builders or owners. Real estate companies
only look for quick profits, they are not concerned about the environment. To
them a green building means using green tinted glass for the exteriors.

Had they had even a modicum of foresight, they would have explored and implemented options like Wind Solar Hybrid Electricity Supply Systems which are available in India from 600 watts to 200 Kilowatts, and larger capacities. [Better technologies are available now]

They would have thought in terms of solar air conditioning or hydro-thermal air conditioning systems.

Granted that the initial capital cost is higher for solar air conditioning systems. On the other hand there are hardly any operating costs, no pollution by way of running diesel generating sets, and savings in terms of diesel consumption, and electricity.

“Absorption chiller AC units are also very popular in Asian countries like Japan, where the high cost of electricity make them very desirable. Chillers constitute up to 40% of all installed commercial air conditioning tonnage. They are simple and dependable, using no harmful CFC (Freon, etc.) and some units actually operate without any moving parts.” (See here)

It is ironical that we have more sunlight in India than Japan.

Builders should have made rainwater harvesting an essential part of their building plans, they should have included water recycling and sewage disposal systems, when the buildings were made. [Has been implemented in a very small way]

They did not, so no air conditioning and no water for the loos. The “authorities” thought that supplying water to malls ranked higher than ensuring water supply to hospitals, so as the headlines say — no surgeries.

A reading of how the authorities respond to drinking water is provided by a PIL filed by TAPAS. (Google will locate the details of the case for those interested).

Read what the then Chief Secretary had said in in his order which was struck down by the court, and you will have an idea of what the “authorities” mindset is.

June 2000: TAPAS filed the public interest litigation (PIL) to ensure that the schemes are implemented and the people of Delhi are no longer deprived of their basic rights to receive safe and adequate supply of drinking water.

April 2009: The applicant sought quashing of the two orders issued by the Chief Secretary of the Delhi Government and the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department with respect to the two water bodies.

Justices Mukul Mudgal and Vipin Sanghi stayed the order of Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta that said ‘the marshland in Jahangirpuri cannot be termed as a water body and the same shall be considered as per the land use plan of Master Plan Delhi 2021’. [There is a move to restore the wetlands as per a report in The Financial Express of 21 June 2015, titled ‘AUD role in Dheerpur wetland project an example for other varsities to follow: DDA chief’. Link]

The High Court has given the PWD and DJB two weeks time to file an affidavit about the status of the two water bodies.

The mess that the DDA and others concerned have created in the water catchment area and flood plains of the Yamuna are there for everyone to see. [The National Green Tribunal is currently considering the cases of apartment complexes built without environmental clearances on the water catchment area in Greater Noida]

We have had umpteen delegations visit umpteen countries for solutions, at the taxpayers expense of course, but sewage is still discharged into the Yamuna. [Things have changed with the AAP government in Delhi taking steps to change this situation]

Some of the steps which Delhi could do with immediately are:

  1. The creation of at least 6 large lakes to be filled with recycled water, and harvested rainwater. These would serve as storage areas.
  2. The management of these lakes to be with bodies like TAPAS in conjunction with the Centre for Science and Environment, or similar organizations. Their waterfront would provide leisure areas, and be revenue generators. Some of these lakes would be used for raising fish, giving another revenue stream, and providing healthy fish for consumers.
  3. Sewage to be treated before it is discharged into drains.
  4. Rainwater harvesting systems to be put into place on a war footing. People who have covered drains in front of their houses, without providing for outlets, should be heavily fined, otherwise they will never realize the value of water.
  5. No filling up of water bodies small or big, unless cleared by an environmental committee. No politician or bureaucrat or their nominees to be part of this committee. Seeing how the situation in the country has been managed so far, this committee should be under the President of India.
  6. Single window clearance for any permissions that might be required, within tight time-frames.
  7. The retro-fitting of Wind Solar Hybrid Electricity Supply Systems, for malls and office buildings which can supply electricity to the grid, when power is not being consumed by the building.

[Point 3 is being tackled, the others still require implementation]
Another headline from The Times of India, 25 June 2012 — Solar power shines on PV panel crash
Cost of generating solar power already on par with operations at coal-based plants. [Generation from Solar PV is increasing]

There would be many people more knowledgeable and qualified than I am, who could offer better solutions. We need to make the “authorities” move, and we also need to take personal and group initiatives to ensure our quality of life. [The citizens of Delhi have a responsive government in the shape of the AAP government, and a lot of improvements should take place]

This is another connected piece written at about the same time, 2012, which I am combining with this.

Water

To come to the trigger for restarting a blog. There were two headlines in today’s Times of India, page 9 said City ready to tackle drinking water crisis by recycling sewage; page 21 said Water woes to fuel next world war?

A lot of like-minded citizens in India and around the world, would like municipalities and governments to start thinking in terms of zero waste. They need to start thinking in terms of waste disposal/treatment  as a revenue item and not as an expenditure item. [Have since suggested a solution in, ‘Kitchen “Waste”, Surplus Power, and No Pollution’]

We don’t need to send government officials abroad on study tours, they only waste tax-payers money. If any citizen comes forth with a solution, consider it, and keep the focus on the solution. Officials, (who are are not qualified to judge in any case), should also stop trying to lay down qualifications for people who can offer solutions.

We have no dearth of talent in India, for solving problems, they just need to be recognized. This quote deserves a mention,

‘Unfortunately the “I” in India has stood for imitation and inhibition for too long, it’s high time it stood for innovation… . ’— Dr Ramesh Mashelkar, Chairman, Marico Innovation Foundation.

Back to Water.

‘City ready to tackle drinking water crisis by recycling sewage
page 9, Times of India, 24 March 2012

New Delhi: Very soon Delhiites will be consuming the city’s waste water… . With raw water sources for Delhi highly limited, the capital will adopt this technology to recycle its waste water as well. Initially, 40 million gallons per day will be treated and added to raw water, which will be cleaned further at water treatment plants. This will help in meeting the drinking water demand of 3-4 million people in the city. [This is already being implemented. Have mentioned this in ‘Water — Recycling, Conservation, Harvesting’]

Delhi Jal Board and the government of Singapore have come to an in-principle agreement, and a memorandum of understanding will be signed between the two governments shortly. Singapore, which is meeting 10% of its drinking water needs by the ‘new water’ technology, will fund the entire consultancy for Delhi, including preparation of a detailed project report and tendering of the project. (The full text can be read in the TOI of 24 March 2012)

To take this thought further. (Just bear in mind that what was fanciful, or in the realm of science fiction, is reality today).

Here is another snippet which is analogous: In 1923 Robert Milliken suggested, ‘There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.’ He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics that year.

Had the governments of Delhi functioned with a different mindset, they would have treated sewage at entry points into drains, especially the major drains, called ganda nullahs in local parlance.

What would have happened to the same drains with treated water. We could have had a canal system all over Delhi which could have been used for transportation by small boats, and taken some load off the roads. We could have had a few waterfront Dilli Haats. We could have had a few more lakes. Instead waste was dumped into existing water bodies, choking them, and lots of people made money by constructing houses where water bodies once existed.

Delhiites could have had water-borne passage to NOIDA. What we do have, are big drains full of black stinking sewage, and since no imagination was used, the drains have been covered. Swept under the carpet, so to say.

So, now we don’t have enough water to drink. (You can’t drink a building).

Conserving water. Why do we have to have headlines every year about floods in Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, and so on. Why can’t large reservoirs be constructed under government welfare schemes, to store flood waters for use around the year. Instead we have photographs on the front page, captioned ‘Minister _______ inspecting the flood waters’. And what happened to the Garland Canal system for inter-linking rivers, which has been around since the time of India’s independence.

This headline is even more alarming.

Water woes to fuel next world war?
US Intel Warns Of Future Conflicts

Washington: Drought, floods and a lack of fresh water may cause significant global instability and conflict in coming decades, as developing countries scramble to meet demand from exploding populations while dealing with the effects of climate change, US intelligence agencies said in a report on Thursday. (The full text can be read in the TOI of 24 March 2012).

Countries are already experiencing the effects of upstream countries tinkering with the flow of rivers that flow into downstream countries. This is not a political discourse, so we won’t mention any names.

Had a recent interaction with the owner of a company manufacturing organic and inorganic fertilizers and chemicals. When I asked the owner what he did with the waste, he said ‘what waste’, and said the last bit of anything left over from any process is converted into a product. We need more people like him.

So if you want to continue to have water to drink, wash your vegetables, have your daily bath, and do all the things you need water for, then get together and communicate to the powers that be, to build up water bodies, instead of more buildings, or you will be fighting a war with your neighbours for your share of water.

My apologies to those who are reading this outside India, since this is a very Delhi-centric piece, having local references. 

Water — Recycling, Conservation, Harvesting

Continuing my theme of value from “waste resources”, this is an expanded version of my post on LinkedIn. As usual have commented on several other connected issues, because the environment is a universe in itself, or rather the universe, and everything is inter-connected.

Government planners usually have a blinkered vision, and very rarely see inter-connections or the consequences which tinkering with one area will have on others.

Saw this article on 4 February, “Rajasthan Launches People’s Movement’ to Battle Water Woes”, in one of the newsletters I receive.

Reading through it, noticed that these objectives had been defined — Construction of minor irrigation tanks, canals, pipelines for drinking water, check dams, afforestation on wastelands, plantation and pasture development are some of the water conservation interventions planned under the campaign.

However one very important factor seemed to have been left out — recycling of waste water. This, when Rajasthan already has several sewage treatment plants. Recalled, that an initiative had been taken by the AAP government in Delhi recently to treat sewage and make the water fit for drinking. Quoting from an article on the initiative.

A decentralized waste water treatment plant in Keshopur will treat the water and supply [it] to nearby areas. The pilot project by Arvind Kejriwal government is named ‘Sujala Dhara’ and was launched in collaboration with NGO SANA.

The technology is already being used in the US and will be replicated in India to purify water. It involves treating water through five levels to make it of drinking quality. The plant can run 24 hours a day producing 4,000 litres of drinking water every hour. The technology has been designed by Absolute Water, an integrated water management company. (Source)

The plant which was set up at a cost of Rs 55 lakhs and runs on solar power can produce 66,000 litres of drinking water every day, which works out to a per litre cost of Re 0.22, which can be rounded off to Re 0.25.

Sujala Dhara-Kejriwal

Source: http://www.nidokidos.org/threads/242800-Sujala-Dhara-%C2%93Toilet-to-Tap%C2%94-at-the-Waste-Water-Treatment-Plant

Coming back to Rajasthan. Searched my files for a briefing note I had written several years back for a senior journalist, whom I’d told way back in 1990 that availability of water would become a big problem in future, especially for India. Politicians had no idea of environmental issues then, and still don’t have any idea today.

Since this is about water, it wouldn’t be out of place to say that the flooding which took place in Madras (Chennai) could have been avoided to a great extent, had political greed not allowed builders to build on flood plains. Bangalore (Bengaluru) is having problems with shrinking lakes, Delhi has had water bodies built over, with politicians and bureaucrats not realizing the incalculable consequences of their actions for monetary greed. I say politicians and bureaucrats because they are the ones who accord permissions to builders. A similar situation exists all over the country. This image says it all.

Only when the last tree has diedBuilders bear the biggest responsibility for encroachment and environmental destruction. It is laudable that the National Green Tribunal has taken up case of illegally made apartment buildings without environmental clearances in Greater Noida on the flood plains of the Yamuna.

Coming back to my briefing note of several years ago, I am reproducing it verbatim, with a few editorial comments. [Since this piece will become very long otherwise, shall write a separate one reproducing what I had written in 2012 — very few things have changed since then. Link]

Waste water is a resource, processing of which is usually regarded as an expense by municipalities and local governments, and accounts for their reluctance in setting up sewage treatment / waste water treatment facilities.

Even rainwater is treated no better. Madras gets 50 inches of rain, 47 is washed into the sea. Madras has a water problem!

This forms the basic concept for developing, greening and adding value to any area.

In this particular process the raw material or basic building block — waste water is free. The initial cost is to transport it (by pipeline) to the processing site.

Wastewater-1For example, Jodhpur is in an arid zone, and has set up a 20 mld sewage treatment plant with assistance from the ADB as part of a 90 crore package. After treatment the water will be released into a river. It has one lean year in three years and a famine every eight years. [Why not release the water in a lake, and the overflow into the river]

With a population of approx 800,000 and an extremely conservative estimate of 10 litres of waste-water per person, we have 8,000,000 litres of water available per day. Taking wastage of 50% we still have around 4 million litres per day or 120 million litres in a month. Conclusion:  Greening is possible even in an arid zone.

Why has this not been done so far? Because no one has looked at the problem in entirety, or thought of a solution or benefits in an integrated fashion.

 An integrated solution means the management of a diverse group of experts from a wide range of fields, and the person at the top has to have some understanding of each field to know when to call in each expert, or combination of experts. The best part is that all the knowledge and technology is available in the country.

What is the value of 100 sq km of barren land, and the value of the same land when it has water, vegetation, and trees? [We are not talking about monetary value, but the value of the land to the community as a whole]

If waste processing liquid and solid, organic and inorganic, is done in an integrated manner in any city, it can be self-sufficient in the matters of food, water, and electricity. I have presented one possible plan in my earlier piece here, (‘Kitchen “Waste”, Surplus Power, and No Pollution’)

A city like Delhi should have at least 6 large lakes, [better than mindlessly developing malls, and feeling happy about the money recovered from high auction prices], but the people who were entrusted with its “development” have destroyed most of the water bodies, just because they thought that urban development meant concretising everything in sight. As shown in the graphic above lakes with treated non-polluted water can be used for breeding fish, which can lead to weekend angling (for a fee), with small restaurants and hotels around them run by NGO’s, women’s self-help groups, and students of catering institutes, water sports of the non-powered kind, (rowing boats and sailing), and with a pathway for walking, around them. They would also be a source of drinking water, since they will be getting an inflow of treated water daily.

Gurgaon could do with a couple of lakes using treated sullage. They don’t have any independent source of water, are supplied through various canals with a transmission loss of 50%, and have a groundwater table which is depleting with each passing year.

The first casualties in any kind of development, whether roads or buildings, are trees. Trees which are cooling, provide shade, and absorb carbon dioxide are looked on as obstructions. Bureaucrats came up with a very nice phrase called “compensatory afforestation”, which is even codified in a Bill. Basically it means that the despoilers can cut down any number of trees as long as they promise to plant ten times more at another site, which is normally kilometres away. Something akin to cutting out a person’s lungs, placing them kilometres away, and asking the person to breathe.

If trees are cut down, then they need to be replaced with equal sized trees in the same area. This will make planners think twice about cutting down trees. One cannot replace a 50-year old tree with a sapling, and say it has been replaced. Each city must have tree transplantation machines capable of handling 30- to 40-foot trees, so that trees are relocated and not cut. Transplantation rigs and experts are available, so “authorities” cannot wash their hands off this situation. Tree relocation should be made part of any contract, where permission to cut trees is sought.

tree-planting machine5
Here is an example of tree-cutting for “development”. You can read the full article here. [It is a different matter that we don’t require more statues, the same money can be better spent on providing Medicare — like the AAP government — and schools]
 Trees-Cutting-1

Here’s another first person account of tree felling for highways.

The whole system of environmental clearances and conditions need re-examination to favour people and the environment, and not favour those who destroy it for some illusory “development” or to favour any lobby.

The only way that such things can be prevented is by having very strong citizen groups who can tell their elected representatives, that they’ve been elected to govern and not given a licence to destroy the environment.

A last thought on water for now. Bottled Water versus Tap Water. Even though this graphic is from the US, it is applicable universally. The basic message is cut down on bottled water. The cost of 20 litres of bottled water in Delhi is ca. Rs 70. The cost of 20,000 litres supplied by the Delhi Jal Board in Delhi is Rs Rs 153.43.

Bottled Water and Tap Water

Creating Value from “Waste” and dealing with Pollution

Every story has a starting point. Seemingly disparate elements are brought together, and a picture which has substance emerges, literally from thin air. I keep emphasizing that there is nothing called waste, but a resource, with each by-product of a process being a raw material for another process. This calls for a radical shift in mindset and throwing aside of in-the-box thinking with regard to the resource called waste. There is no choice but to think of radically new solutions, if the human race is to survive, healthily. Unhealthily, it will become extinct.

Environmental DestructionI’m taking forward the point that was made in my previous piece, (‘Kitchen “Waste”, Surplus Power, and No Pollution’). The trigger for this piece was a technical article in semiconductor-today.com, regarding the combining of Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) and Silicon Dioxide (SiO2) for a new type of LED, capable of emitting double the amount of light as existing ones, by Chinese scientists.

We have reached a particular stage of economic and industrial development, in India and China, which can’t be rolled back. However, some of the effects of development have reached a disastrous stage, because shareholder priority has been given more importance than people priority, economic benefits over health. The emphasis solely on profits has created situations which could have been avoided. In most cases the companies and governments involved have been aware of the consequences of their actions, and are only galvanized into preventive modes when there is a public outcry which cannot be ignored, or a disastrous situation which cannot be “contained”. (You can be a billionaire or even a trillionaire, but in the end you can’t eat money, [you require farmers, herders, and fishermen], and you can’t drink money, [you require unpolluted lakes, rivers, and aquifers]. Poison the land and sources of water and everything dies).

An immediate destructive process that comes to mind — where the greed for profits by oil companies has outweighed disastrous consequences — is what is known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Sounds very innocuous. The consequences of fracking for human, animal and bovine populations,  and agriculture have been poisoning of ground water and triggering of earthquakes. Between 17 June and 24 June, 2015, Oklahoma was jolted by 35 earthquakes greater than magnitude 3.0 due to fracking — see details here), and earlier in 2015 there was a 4.6 magnitude earthquake in Northern British Columbia see details here.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals deep into the earth to fracture shale rock beds and release natural gas for extraction. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals deep into the earth to fracture shale rock beds and release natural gas for extraction. (Brennan Linsley/The Associated Press)

To come back to to the start of this piece, using “waste” as a resource. We’ll use as an example a process which figures prominently in all discussions regarding pollution and climate change — coal-fired thermal power plants. These plants have been blamed as the leading source of industrial pollution all over the world.

coal-power-plant-510They can’t be wished away, because without electricity, modern life as we know it would come to a grinding halt. It has been reported that China is shutting down four large coal-fired plants, and replacing them with gas-fired ones. Not a solution really because that brings us back to fracking, which as the world has realized is a very destructive process.

Coal-fired plants generate as a by-product a very fine ash called fly ash. Which brings us to the main element of our story, using mountains of fly ash all over the world as a resource for creating valuable products.

According to a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the amount of fly ash expected to be generated by the end of 2015 in India, is likely to touch 200 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). It is a toxic pollutant dumped in what are euphemistically called “fly ash ponds”. This is a favourite response of the human species, dumping. Dump ash in ponds, dump nuclear waste in caverns, dump household and other waste in landfills, dump effluents in rivers, and so on. Dumping doesn’t eliminate the problem, it only creates another series of problems.  [I have not touched upon the quantities of fly ash in USA, UK, China, and other countries].

Companies have been prodded to use it for building blocks, bricks, and tiles, but the off-take still remains limited. However, it can be used for making more valuable materials than bricks and tiles, should people liberate themselves from thinking in isolation about processes. (As environmentally wise people keep saying, plan projects to use all by-products as resources, so that there is zero-waste).

I am presenting one possibility. Fly ash particles consist of silicon dioxide, alumina, oxides of iron, calcium, and magnesium and toxic heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cobalt, and copper. Which leads us to what we see below, gems, and what are gems doing in a piece on using “waste” products as resources, and what is their connection with fly ash? The short answer is, that the chemical composition of what we call gems, are made up of all the metals and materials present in fly ash. The thrust of my argument here is to convert fly ash,  into something of high value.

Gemstones-1No! I am not being woolly-headed.

RCA filed a patent way back in 1948 for producing synthetic gemstones. Quoting from two patent documents, filed decades ago:

1. The crystals prepared by the present process possess a unique interstitial or superlattice structure not found in any prior art synthetic or naturally occurring crystalline compound. The hardness and index of refraction of the present crystals is considerably greater than the garnets which also contain CaO and SiO as major constituents. Hence, while the present crystals may be prepared from inexpensive raw materials as may be the garnets, the extreme hardness and brilliance of my crystals permit their use as heavy-duty abrasives and as decorative stones of gem quality.

2. . . . aluminium oxide, calcium carbonate and silicon dioxide were placed in a silica crucible and melted with an oxygen rock gas torch. The clear melt was then permitted to cool slowly in a fire brick furnace. The result was the formation of a series of large, clear crystals having a weight of up to 50 carats. These crystals were cut and polished using conventional gem-cutting techniques to prepare gem quality stones having an extremely high degree of brilliance.

To give you a sense of perspective, the time taken to treat corundum, Al2O3, (to make Rubies) is 8–12 hours non-stop at 1800–2000° C. Sapphires are also composed of Al2O3. The presence of different minerals and metals give them their colours.

This leads us to a renewable energy technology, solar, for dealing with a waste by-product of a non-renewable energy process, coal, the Solar Furnace.

Image credit Florian.

Image credit Florian.

This is the largest Solar Furnace in the world at Odeillo in the Pyrénées-Orientales in France, opened in 1970. It employs an array of plane mirrors to gather sunlight, reflecting it onto a larger curved mirror. The Solar  Furnace  consists of 10,000 concave mirrors that reflect and focus the sun’s rays on a square diagonal of 40 inches. Diameter mirror construction is 54 metres. An array of mirrors acts as a parabolic reflector, concentrating and focussing light. The temperature at the focal point, can reach 3500° C with optimum positioning of the mirrors.

So a process using renewable energy can be used to create value out of a polluting  by-product of non-renewable process, considered a waste material.

There are a lot of creative minds out there. I’m sure they can come up with a whole range of high value products which can be made from fly ash.

All I’m doing is bringing the elements of a story together.

To come back to pollution from coal. The replacement of coal-fired plants would be ultimately renewable energy plants. Coal plants can be made non-polluting, but the investment required to retro-fit them may not be available with the owners. It would involve using the “waste” thermal energy from the cooling towers (to cut down on the water required for cooling), and exhaust stacks. Recovery of syn-gas from the smoke of the exhaust stacks, and scrubbing of the leftover exhaust gas, so that one has near zero-pollution. Underground gasification of coal as a process is as disastrous  as fracking. [The argument used here is that these processes are “controlled”. Nuclear reactors also use “controlled” fission, excepting when they go out of control, and their disastrous and poisonous effects last for generations].

So heating of boilers with gas instead of coal would be a transitory solution, but better than using coal. A big positive, no ash generation, so one polluting by-product is eliminated this way.

Solar appears to be promising, I say promising because conversion efficiencies are not what they should be, power is available for a limited duration, and a lot of energy — mental, physical, industrial — is being expended in trying to develop storage solutions for non-sunlight hours. (I have followed solar developments for over four decades now, and I think I know a little bit about it).

Power can be generated from wind for practically 24 hours, but this source is locational. The factor of lower wind speeds can be dealt with by using installations based on the Venturi principle, with the advantage of generators being placed underground. This particular innovation makes it possible to spread wind generators over a wider geographical area, and does away with the eyesore of huge towers, noise pollution from them, and fatal danger to bird populations.

A non-glamorous low-tech—high-tech non-polluting solution, which will be cheaper than solar or wind, for 24-hour power generation has been suggested by me in my previous piece on this blog, (with the advantage of no landfills).

Air Pollution: Smog

For many years now the refrain has been, can smog be far behind now that winter is here. [Specific to Delhi, but equally applicable to Beijing or any other city].

Personal or public vehicles using internal combustion engines cannot be wished away, till the time non-polluting engines using electricity, or hydrogen, or something still to be developed, replace them. An excellent public transportation system, with last-mile connectivity has to be in place, to encourage people not to use personal vehicles. [Vehicle manufacturers and governments have to get together on this].

Adopting an adversarial policy by saying “ban this”, “close that” or “finish that”, will not work till alternatives are suggested and put in place. Otherwise instead of cooperation, it pits the users against the environmentalists, and creates situations which do not solve the problem at hand. One can stop something that has not been started, but one requires solutions where something has been in existence for a period of time. Otherwise we will have confrontations and no solutions.

The only way is to put in place short-term solutions to deal with the problem, till the long-term change takes place.

An example. Banning polythene bags. Won’t work. What about all the other plastic articles, why just one item. They should be banned too. Let their use continue till an alternative is in place. The immediate solution is to have a good collection system for all plastic waste. Involve NGO’s and rag pickers (I prefer calling them resource-collectors) — municipalities have totally failed here, and send the waste to be converted to diesel. This has to be a combined effort of education of citizens, (the majority lack basic civic sense), fines for littering, and a good collection system. For instance around 25,00,000 litres of milk is distributed in plastic poly-packs everyday in Delhi. This is a valuable resource being wasted. The diesel produced can be distributed in rural areas for powering pump-sets and other applications. It burns cleaner than the diesel made from crude oil.

Long-term: India has done nothing about encouraging the growth of Industrial Hemp as a crop, from which bio-degradable plastics can be made, (amongst 25,000 other items like paper and textiles). Hemp paper can be recycled 7 times against 3 times for paper made from wood pulp. (See here to find out more).

Hemp is the miracle plant of our time, breathing in 4x the carbon dioxide (CO2) of trees during it’s quick 12-14 week growing cycle. Trees take 20 years to mature vs 4 months for Industrial Hemp! Our forests are being cut down 3x faster than they can grow! One acre of hemp produces as much cellulose fibre pulp as 4.1 acres of trees!!! (Dewey & Merrill. Bulletin #404. U.S. Dept. of Age. 1916) (Source)

A possible solution for smog: The incidence of smog is usually at its worst on major arterial roads. I am putting forth an idea, more for the purpose of people suggesting better solutions, rather than just starting a discussion.

We can have towers about 22 metres high, with a diameter twice that of a mobile transmitting tower, with inlet slots on top, located at a distance of 500 metres from each other. The bottom of the towers can have large fans which will suck in the air. A combination of electrostatic precipitators, filters, and a scrubbing tank, will be used to filter the particulate matter, and absorb the nitrates and other matter in the air, before it is released back.

All items are available, metal tower fabrication, fans, electrostatic precipitators, filters and scrubbing tanks. The tower is the only portion which will be visible above ground, the rest of the installation would be underground, so no obstruction for pedestrians or traffic. The particulate matter, (whatever it be), can be collected and be treated the same way as fly ash, to produce a product of value, whether it be an abrasive or a synthetic gemstone.

The whole pollution control process should be viewed as a huge business opportunity, or a series of opportunities, with profit not being the sole motive. People value before shareholder value.

Before ending this piece, a headline from The Hindu, dateline 25 December, 2015.

Green-Norms-Hindu25-12-2015The emphasis you will notice is on the possible economic loss, but not on presenting solutions, which will keep the industry viable and also pollution free. Possibly because no one has put in any thinking on the recoverable value of the “waste”, or developing pollution free processes.

This mindset will have to change if we are to have pollution free processes and systems.

This is a sentiment that I identify with very strongly.

“Drastic, revolutionary, disruptive answers to existing problems very rarely come from existing channels or are identified by those who are embedded in the particular sector experiencing the problem.” Chris, Capital Exploits

Kitchen “Waste”, Surplus Power, and No Pollution

Waste Resources and Pollution are intrinsically connected. Tackle one and it immediately has a positive effect on the other. One cannot tackle parts of an ecosystem in isolation and hope for results. One has to deal with all parts of a system — all the gears in a watch have to mesh together perfectly if one wants perfect time. Have tried to suggest solutions using currently available technologies and processes. Better solutions may be available. As always my suggestion to readers is to offer solutions, rather than try and pick holes.

Don’t find fault, find a remedy; Anybody can complain. — Henry Ford

Several things have happened simultaneously in the last week of November–first week of December 2015: floods in Chennai, COP21, (also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference), and the Arvind Kejriwal government trying to press into effect pollution control measures on an emergency basis.

Government functionaries have been quick to blame climate change for the floods in Chennai, forgetting  that it is their policies, (or absence of them), which were directly responsible for the floods. Swati Thiyagarajan of NDTV, has written an excellent article titled The Stupid Decisions That Left Chennai So Vulnerable, illustrating that the Chennai floods were a total man-made disaster, as are a lot of environmental disasters in India.

World leaders seem to have reached some kind of an agreement in Paris, though no one is sure whether they have reached any kind of agreement, or not. The results which will follow from their deliberations remain to be seen.

In Delhi, the Kejriwal government is trying to tackle problems which have built up over the years due to the implementation of faulty policies, influenced by the pressure of various lobbies and vote-bank considerations, whose consequences were either not foreseen, or brushed under the carpet.

The problems of Delhi cover a very wide canvas, which we’re sure the Kejriwal government will find solutions to, since they are about the only elected government which seems to have some kind of vision and plan regarding what has to be done.

However since this piece is supposed to be about about utilising waste resources and controlling pollution, we shall focus on those. (I am not laying out a detailed blueprint here, but pointing out what can be done and the benefits).

Using “Waste”: Energy Potential of Organic/Animal Kitchen “Waste”

Disposal of waste is not a problem confined to Delhi, but to the country, and most parts of the world. The only way to tackle it is, to follow a basic postulate: nothing should go to any “landfill”, in fact the word “landfill” should not exist in the lexicon of any municipality or local authority. The corollary to the postulate is “localised processing”.

Let us start from a basic unit, the place of dwelling, which could be a single room in a slum, or a huge bungalow, classified as a household in the Census.

All of them generate by-products of everyday living. We shall focus on the kitchen, and leave recycling of water and sewage to another time. Kitchen waste is something which is common to villages, towns, cities (whether dumb or smart, old or new), rich or poor.

The Kejriwal government is already doing good things on the sewage and water recycling front. (I keep referring to the Delhi Government as the Kejriwal government, to make it clear that I am referring to the elected government).

Saw this in my Inbox a few days ago, a home biogas unit. The empty weight is 35 kilos, and the dimensions are: 127H × 165L × 100W cm. [Update: There are several Indian manufacturers of operationally similar units].

Home-Biogas-0

Sourced from http://www.homebiogas.com/

Here is the video link. According to the specifications on their site each unit produces 600 litres of gas (approx. 65% CH4, 35% CO2) per day, with an input of up to 6 litres of food waste or up to 15 litres of animal manure (dairy farms, urban–rural areas). The gas can be used to run a micro-turbine, but it can be used more efficiently when it is burned to generate steam, which in turn can be used to generate electricity with a low pressure module like the EM-150 (from EAWC), rated at 150 kW at a steam pressure of 5 bars. One could also use Enertime’s Organic Rankine Cycle machines, which can convert heat sources (between 90°C and 300°C) directly into power with a 75% efficiency in cogeneration. (These are examples. Other combinations can be used).

The point that is being made, is that no organic resource should be transported to a landfill, but used at its point of origin. (This eliminates a big cause of environmental pollution)

According to the census figures for 2011, there were 3,340,000 households in Delhi. Let us say they have increased to 3,350,000 in 2015. Assuming 8 biogas units (households) are required to feed one 150 kW module for 24 hours, we get a potential figure of  62,812 MW. (On 16 July, 2014, according to the Economic Times, the peak demand was 5,925 MW). We have still not taken into account organic/animal waste from restaurants, hotels, malls, shopping areas, wholesale and retail vegetable and fruit markets, fruit juice stalls, roadside food vendors, the slaughter house, and the like. Let us average out this figure and assume that 35,000 MW is generated using organic/inorganic waste from all sources. This makes Delhi surplus in power. (Generation of electricity from sewage has not been added to the equation).

The individual price of the biogas unit is US$ 1500. The price can be brought down once they are made in large quantities here. The same goes for the steam modules. This whole combination also meets a very important parameter, which critics of renewable energy have, 24×7 operation, and which all of us, who are supporters of renewable energy strive for. This generation model can work as a series of linked micro-grids. (I am not suggesting any business, technical, or billing model at this point. This will have to be worked out by entrepreneurs, and it would be better if no large corporate is involved in the exercise).

Consider a gated cluster of 75 flats. They have a potential capacity of 1350 kW. Let’s say 945 kW at 70% efficiency. Their peak requirement would be 600 kW at a sanctioned load of 7.5 kW (5 is the norm) which includes external lighting and power for the cluster’s water pump. They would have a surplus of approximately 350 kW to feed to an external grid. In short, each gated cluster can be made self-sufficient in electricity with zero-generation of waste.

Advantages of the biogas-steam generation model
  • Can operate on a 24×7 basis.
    (Not weather dependent, no battery storage required)
  • Will never run out of feedstock, unless people stop eating.
    (Recycled water can be used for the steam unit).
  • Ideal for an urban environment, footprint of the unit is very small (127H × 165L × 100W cm) plus a slightly bigger area for the generation unit.
  • The only waste which would need to be collected from any residential or commercial area is plastic, paper, glass, and a minuscule amount of metal. All recyclable materials.
    Plastic waste can be converted to biodiesel. [Update: Around 2,51,850 tonnes of plastic waste are generated per year in Delhi. If all of it is converted to diesel, then you get 151,110,000 litres of biodiesel per annum, and 50,370 tonnes of petcoke. Petcoke can be further gasified, and the gas used for generating on-demand electricity.]
    Efficient collection of plastic waste would also save drains from being clogged. (Banning plastic bags is not a solution till alternatives are available. Over 25,00,000 litres of milk in plastic poly-packs is supplied every day in Delhi. The disposed poly-packs are a valuable resource. Add to that disposable plastic bottles, glasses, plates, et cetera.)
    Collection would be done at source rather than have waste collectors sort through “trash” dumped on roadsides. Since there would be no trash on the roadsides, cows  and other animals would not feed on trash, and get choked with plastic. It would also cut down on flies and other insects attracted to trash
    .
    An efficient collection system coupled with fines for littering, would see the “trash” being utilised, and the streets and market places remaining clean. Which in turn would mean there would be nothing to attract flies.
    Delhi then can then have roads and streets to rival Singapore’s.
  • No land would be required for landfills, which would mean land earmarked for landfills, can be freed up for development of schools, hospitals, sports complexes, no malls.
    • No landfill therefore no pollution of air, and no leaching of toxic material into the ground, therefore no pollution of ground water.
    • No landfills mean drastic reduction of trucks required for collection and transportation of waste for long distances, which consequently means reduction of running and maintenance costs.
  • The main benefit is a cleaner city, and consequently a cleaner and an environment free of pollution.

The success of this system will depend on the efficient collection of the waste resources from individual households, which can be organized. A system of collection is already in place in Delhi and most cities. It would just need refining. [Update: This is what a waste collector has to say, though I’d rather call them Resource Collectors].

Source: The Hindu, Bengaluru, 11 December, 2015

Source: The Hindu, Bengaluru, 11 December, 2015

The costs of this kind of a system will be cheaper than any other renewable source generation system in use presently. Before doing any calculations it would worth considering healthcare costs, which would also be cut down, (remember complete ecosystems, nothing in isolation).

Killer Air-1

Source: www.vogmask.in

Trees and Prevention of Air Pollution

A by-product of the biogas unit is liquid fertilizer, which can be used for fertilizing trees, vegetation, and gardens. It is an environmental tragedy that the first thing which is common to any new project, roads or buildings, is the cutting down of trees. The authorities then announce that they will plant 1o times the amount cut down, but 10 to 20 kilometres away. It’s like cutting out someone’s lungs, and placing them several houses away and then asking that person to breathe. A 50-year old tree cannot be replaced by saplings planted elsewhere.
Why cut down 50-year old trees to widen highways. Let the additional lanes come up on the other side of the trees. In fact one can separate car and truck traffic this way.

This has been a major contributory cause of air and heat pollution. It is surprising that no one has thought of using transplantation rigs, which can transplant trees up to 15 metres in height. A certain degree of mortality is expected, but the majority of trees can be saved.

tree-planting machine5

Source: http://www.landscapeonline.com/

A tree transplantation operation by one such machine can be seen in this video clip.

The removal of trees and vegetation, cuts down on the capacity of the absorption of carbon dioxide in the areas where they are cut, and raises ambient temperatures. No trees and vegetation also add to the build up of dust. (The Delhi government is arranging for vacuum cleaning machines to suck up dust on the roads by April 2016).

interlocking-pavers-grass-paver-500x500

Source: Paving Stone (India) Pvt. Ltd.

Porous Pavement Tiles
This is another measure which has also been announced. Pavement tiles which allow grass to grow through. This will allow rain water to percolate to the ground below, prevent flooding, trap dust, and cut down on heat generated from purely concrete tiles. (Liquid fertilizer would be available in adequate quantities from biogas generation for the grass and trees).

Water Bodies
The flooding in Chennai was caused by building over catchment and drainage areas. This has happened in Delhi and the NCR also. Water bodies are a part of a healthy environmental system and need to be revived and kept alive.

Air Pollution: Vehicular
Source: thehindu.com

Source: thehindu.com

This is the immediate issue of the moment. As I mentioned at the start, the Kejriwal government is trying to tackle a problem which has built up over the years.

We can take the MPD-2021 as the main culprit, which allowed the construction of an extra floor in Delhi. Delhi does not need to go vertical, (not in a seismic zone). The development of satellite towns like Gurgaon and NOIDA were supposed to relieve population pressure in Delhi. This was nullified in one stroke.
(A thought, since all towns around Delhi want be part of the NCR, why not make the NCR a State ?)

Builder’s flats started coming up, and the illegal ones became legal. So instead of one household per plot, Delhi suddenly started having two to six households located in the same physical area, without any scaling up of the electrical, water, or sewage facilities. This placed enormous pressure on civic facilities. Another effect of this development was that cars, which were hitherto parked inside houses, were now parked on roads, and instead of one car there were four or five now — two to six households in the same space as one. So all internal roads immediately became congested, and parking started becoming a law and order problem.

The effects of this over-population spilled over to external connecting roads. Bad road engineering, coupled with indisciplined driving habits, have exacerbated the problem. Congested arterial roads exist in all areas of Delhi. Flyovers haven’t helped. They move traffic in one direction or are supposed to, but cross-traffic is held up, and idling vehicles add to air pollution, as well as wastage of fuel. We now have traffic jams on flyovers, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them collapse one day. They were designed for dynamic loads and not static loads.

Road engineering is one area the Kejriwal government is already working on. They seem to have worked out solutions, since they have identified the problems, so hopefully traffic will move more smoothly once changes are implemented.

Arvind Kejriwal was speaking about dedicated elevated bus corridors, a few days ago. My suggestion is that if Delhi decides to go in for the electricity generation model suggested above, the buses on those corridors should be electrically powered, which should cut down on air pollution.

Low floor buses add to traffic congestion. This is again peculiar to Delhi. They occupy too much of road space, and their drivers are not exactly like the BEST drivers in Mumbai, who stick to the left of the roads. Buses in other metros also stick to their lanes. These buses are totally unsuitable for plying on the internal roads in residential colonies, which were never designed for such huge vehicles. Have smaller sized low floor buses than the current ones to increase available road space, and make traffic movement smoother.

Traffic jam at the ISBT Anand Vihar Bus terminal in East Delhi. The DTC fleet has only 4,712 buses to carry 3.5 million passengers across the city, a number likely to go up if the government implements car rationing in Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

Traffic jam at the ISBT Anand Vihar Bus terminal in East Delhi. The DTC fleet has only 4,712 buses to carry 3.5 million passengers across the city, a number likely to go up if the government implements car rationing in Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT File Photo)

This is a scene repeated across most of Delhi; buses occupying multiple lanes, rather than a single lane, as they are supposed to. Bus schedules need reworking to avoid “bunching” for smooth flow of bus traffic. This would help commuters and  avoid traffic congestion at the same time.

Traffic regulation is under the domain of the police, and according to reports, the traffic police in Delhi is badly under-staffed. (I am not commenting on the governance problems of Delhi, which is not the focus of this piece. However as a citizen, I feel that control of land and the police should be with the Kejriwal government, to tackle the problems of congestion and traffic regulation, both of which affect air pollution directly).

The other vehicular factors which add to congestion and hence pollution, is indisciplined driving by two-wheelers, three-wheelers (passengers and goods), gramin seva vehicles, and over the last couple of years what are called e-rickshaws. This area can only be streamlined by the traffic police. As can be seen from the excerpt below, two-wheelers and trucks are the biggest cause of vehicular pollution in Delhi. It would therefore make more sense to get them off the roads than cars, to control vehicular pollution.

As per the draft report, [study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur], vehicular pollution accounts for 30 to 40 per cent of all air pollution, and of that around 34 per cent can be attributed to two-wheelers, 10 per cent to cars and 46 per cent to trucks. (Source: The Hindu, 8 December 2015)

Another cause of vehicular congestion is the allowing of weekly markets to be held on both sides of roads, leading to an increase in air pollution again. Let them be held in a large ground, so that sellers can still sell their wares, and not cause traffic congestion.

Governments have tried to get people away from using personal vehicles, particularly cars (a favourite target for environmentalists), to using public transport. Many more knowledgeable and well-informed people have already commented on this. The only way that this is going to be possible is to have buses and metro coaches with ‘seating only’ arrangements. Their users can pay more. However what must not be lost sight of is, ultimately it is public transport, and should not be treated on a commercial basis. (On a personal note, have had my pocket picked twice on the Metro, and even as a senior citizen, getting a seat is akin to winning a lottery).

The odd-even number regulation of vehicles would be effective for controlling vehicular pollution, if it targets the biggest polluters, two-wheelers and trucks. Targeting cars will not help. However, while the percentage contribution to air pollution by vehicles is smaller as compared to other sources of air pollution, it does require streamlining to reduce air pollution.

Air pollution from other sources, which can be seen below, have not been referred to. They require their own solutions along with controlling road traffic, if measures to control overall air pollution are to have any impact. Pollution from Gen sets can be cut down with the availability of 24×7 electricity, as well as consumption of diesel used by them.

Source: www.business-standard.com

Source: www.business-standard.com

 

Adoption of all the steps outlined above, should make Delhi more than self-sufficient in electricity, cut down pollution from various sources drastically, and make it truly a clean, green, city. This is a Delhi-centric piece but the solutions suggested can be applied to any metro city, and can be scaled down for smaller places.

[Reviewing this article, felt it would be incomplete without this element]

Urban Farming

Growing green roofs is now mandatory for new buildings being built in Canada and France. Middle Eastern countries facing dire food and water insecurity know that farming close to home can cut down greenhouse emissions and if farmed hydroponically can drastically cut the water bill — in some cases by 90%! Putting its money where American mouths is this company from Brooklyn called Gotham Greens which has just built the world’s largest rooftop farm — in Chicago.

To make this whole concept more integrated we add Urban Farming to the picture. This takes us to pre-kitchen waste stage. We already have liquid fertilizer and electricity available. Rooftops, barren or empty plots can be fully utilized. This will have the effect of:

  • Cutting pollution by cutting down on transportation of produce from farm to customer.
  • Creating employment for women and youth. (See image from Harlem Green below)
  • Offering fresh produce at stable prices and supplies without seasonal variations.
  • Cutting down on greenhouse emissions, and a host of other benefits.
Urban Farm of Harlem Grown (http://www.harlemgrown.org/)

Urban Farm of Harlem Grown (http://www.harlemgrown.org/)

In the middle of Harlem on a derelict plot of land where old men used to play cards, with no kids allowed, is growing one of the most exciting social projects seen this year. Harlem kids that were eating Twix bars for lunch are now eating fresh greens — food that they and their mothers are growing through a non-profit project called Harlem Grown. See more.
Latonya Assanah from Harlem, New York (pictured above) has an 8-year-old daughter who just “wouldn’t eat green things.” Today Assanah is the greenhouse manager, working days at the high-tech farm, which feeds 150 local Harlem families. It is part of the Harlem Grown non-profit farm. The farm stands on what was 4 brownstone houses in the middle of the city.

 

These images are from an urban farm run by Eden Works.

Edenworks-1Edenworks-2

There are already people involved in growing vegetables in what are called kitchen gardens. They would form a ready base for this kind of farming, and would also be able to train others. (Urban planners do need to shift their focus away from building shopping malls and constructing buildings on every available plot of land, and giving infrastructural, and economically and socially beneficial projects such as these, priority).

 

Ease of Business, Taxes, and Other Things

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” — George Bernard Shaw

This will be a longish piece, expressing thoughts based on my interactions and observations. This is not exactly an academic treatise, so I’m taking the freedom to ramble. You’re welcome to agree or disagree. I shall not be responding to any “this can’t be done” critics. Throughout human history, progress has always been spearheaded by those who believed “it can be done”, and fortunately we have no shortage of such souls in the country.

On 5 October 2015 there was a statement by Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s inviting Sri Lankans and Indians who had to take back their deposits from banks in Switzerland to place their funds in Sri Lanka, no questions asked.
This was basically about recognizing a practical situation, and converting it into an opportunity.

The Hindu-1On the other hand India lost an opportunity by bringing forward legislation full of heavy taxes, and penalties. All this while recognizing that excessive taxation was responsible for the flight of capital. (I am not commenting on money received in the form of bribes, kickbacks, proceeds of smuggling, etc., which is spirited abroad, and which is where efforts of the agencies concerned should be directed to).

Coming back to the Sri Lankans. India should have allowed the declared offshore money to have been deposited in accounts with micro-financing banks, giving account holders an interest 1% less than the saving bank rate of interest, with a lockin period of say 7 years.

That money should have been available for lending on a micro financing basis with an interest rate of 6% and a maximum borrowing limit of 10 lakhs. (This would require amending the rules governing the base lending rate. Everything being interconnected). On a comparative scale, money is borrowed in wholesale vegetable and fruit markets (mandis) at a daily interest of 2% and more. This should answer your question, if you’ve ever wondered about the big gap in wholesale and retail prices.

This measure would have improved poverty levels to a great extent, and accelerated the pace of economic growth.

While on the subject, there could be be a domestic declaration scheme. Money Bond’s or Infrastructure Bond’s with a face value of 1 lakh each could be issued (no questions asked), bearing an interest of 2.5% per annum, non-transferable, and non-tradable for 10 years.

According to a NIFP report, the size of the parallel economy is around 75% of the GDP. Now, whether we take the nominal GDP value of 2.308 trillion dollars or 8.027 trillion dollars by Purchasing Power Parity, 75% is a fairly large amount. (October 2015 figures)

That would make available a really large amount of money which can be spent on building up social infrastructure, economic infrastructure, power and industrial capacity. (Charging 30% tax on declarations and penalties will not bring this money out, from wherever it is stored or hidden).

Apart from the fiscal and economic angle, “black” money is connected with electoral funding, which makes electoral reform another component, which requires correction in the scheme of things. (The Aam Aadmi Party has demonstrated that it is possible to fight an election with transparent funding and accounted money).

Kautilya said in his Arthshastra:

“the taxing power of the state should be limited, tax should not be felt to be heavy or excessive, tax hikes should be introduced gradually, tax should be levied in the proper place, time and form, and tax level should be equitable and reasonable.

Ideally, the government should collect taxes like a honeybee that sucks just the right amount of honey from the flower so that both can survive.”

Kautilya also said that good governance and stability go hand in hand. According to him, there is stability if rulers are responsive, responsible, accountable, removable, and recallable, otherwise there would be instability. (Just having large numbers in legislatures does not ensure stability).

Cultural Policing

From The Hindu, 6 October 2015.

Any economic system is composed not just of arithmetical numbers, but people who make that system function, within a business, cultural, and political environment. Everything has to mesh smoothly if the system is to function to the advantage of everyone. India has an unnecessary proliferation of tax departments, (another colonial legacy), all levying different kinds of taxes, which need to be unified for ease of tax collection, and simplifying life for the citizens.

Every one says that India needs to grow. To do that it needs to create the conditions for growth. All round economic progress will not be achieved by creating industrial corridors, and making farmers, industrial labour. Millions of jobs need to be created, and big manufacturing units with their penchant for automation, are not going to be able to do that. The micro and small businesses need to be supported and encouraged.  (Figures are available in the public domain for jobs created by big business since 1947, versus small business which has created the majority of jobs).

Environmental DestructionPlanners in India need to focus on a larger number of small projects, rather than those of the ultra- and mega- variety, which meet the needs of the people, rather than displace communities, or damage the environment for some kind of mythical growth. (Over 25% of India’s population, mainly rural and poor, has been displaced since 1947 by big dams, and some are still to be rehabilitated).

Better to have ten 50 MW power plants closer to consumption centres, rather than have one 500 MW plant. Have a series of smaller dams, rather than one big one. (This would place lesser pressure on the environment, have zero displacement of people, and generate the same amount of electricity as the big one). Encourage and support micro- and mini-hydel projects.

Back to Kautilya again: Three principal vocations are recognised as providing men with the means of livelihood namely, krsi (agriculture), pasupalya (cattle rearing) and vanijya (trade). The three together constitute varita (derived vritti —livelihood).

Agriculture

For a detailed explanation of the rural scenario, you can read this excellent article by Subir Roy.

Amit Prakash in Digital India needs to go local, says, “Framers of development policies worldwide, and in India, have realized that an explicit recognition of the pathways through which the poor and marginalized contribute and benefit in the economic growth process is important.”

India needs to grow every sector, particularly agriculture and agro-based industries, otherwise there will be no food to eat, and migration pressure on cities will grow. We need thousands of smart villages and towns, rather than smart cities. The investment required will be many degrees less than that required for cities. (Why should people have to come to cities for work). We have overcrowded metro cities full of slums, thanks to politicians not having a clue about urban planning.

We need integrated facilities set up in rural areas, so that one has renewable energy and waste-to-energy plants in a series of inter-connected micro-grids, for power; use heat recovery from them for refrigeration (cold storages) and air-conditioning, for storing vegetables and fruits, to be used for food processing, milk and dairy products, and so on.

What is also required to move this forward is an infrastructural network of rural roads, telecommunications (internet connectivity), and marketing support.

An example of what can be done: Sugar Mills.
This is from a personal observation at a sugar mill, which wanted power to be generated from bagasse.
There was enough sugar left over in the bagasse after crushing to be used for extraction of ethanol. The resultant bio-mass could then be gasified and used for power generation allowing for complete usage of the bagasse, rather than just burning it in boilers. According to International Energy Agency estimates, an integrated sugar cane to ethanol technology, the well-to-wheels CO2 emissions can be 90% lower than conventional gasoline. Brazil (which uses ethanol blends for fuel), is considering using sugar cane for production of ethanol only rather than sugar.
The waste heat from power generation can be recovered through primary and secondary heat exchangers for refrigeration and air conditioning. One can then have a cold storage facility along with a sugar mill, at practically nil operating cost.
There are many more things like this which can be done. The brain power is available in the country.
Effect: It will stop rural migration to cities, and increase the spending power of the rural population.

Ease of Business, Banking and Taxation

A lot has been written and spoken about making it easier to do business, and how we wish to rival Singapore, Hong Kong, and other financial centres. To get anywhere near them we require to change a few basic procedures.

  • one should be able to incorporate a company in one to two days; (Estonia is offering it online in 20 minutes).
  • payments to the RoC should be enabled through any bank, like any other online payment;
  • Allow Chartered Accountant’s offices to be used as a registered office, (they’re looking after the company’s affairs in any case);
  • the process of opening a bank account should not be a time consuming process for limited, private limited, or LLP companies;
  • directors of private limited companies, LLP’s should have no problems being issued business debit cards from any bank. It is not understood why all banks offering current account facilities cannot issue business debit cards;
  • corporate tax levels are brought down to 15.5% or thereabouts, in line with Hong Kong and Singapore; (otherwise India can never be a viable alternative)
  • restrictions are removed on Forex transactions, (with sensible checks and balances). As a reference point the foreign exchange reserves in billions of dollars are: India: 355.459; HK 343.213; Singapore 251.921. (October 2015). A 0.075% transfer tax can be levied, in case an Indian bank is just being used to transfer funds.

Effect: Indian companies who have established off-shore companies, would be able to operate from India with Forex transactions not acting as a restraint. A lot of foreign companies would find it viable to establish a base in India, rather than say in Hong Kong or other places. India has a lot to offer in terms of things to be done and market size. There would be an all-round improvement in the economic climate in terms of investments, new businesses, and employment generation.

Income Tax

Others besides me have felt that levying personal income tax is not necessary. It was a wartime tax and should have been abolished on attaining Independence.

Had posed a question to Doctors Bimal Jalan and Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a casual conversation, at a book release function in 1991: Why didn’t they work out a plan for doing away with income tax. I got a smile from both of them.

However implementing this change will require a radical shift in mindset by the government. A start can be made by dropping the personal income tax level to a flat 2.5%, to be levied on incomes above 5 lakhs, and 5% for incomes above 25 lakhs, with no exemptions and deductions. This will make returns simpler, reduce a lot of paperwork, and free manpower in the Income Tax department for other tasks.

Alternative means of taxation

Since taxes are required to run the nation and public services, other sources of taxation need to be tapped. Basically we need to go to a purely consumption based tax system. (Everyone is a consumer, rich or poor, old or young, buying goods or services).

For example let us take city of Delhi, and within Delhi, two areas, Karol Bagh and Chandni Chowk.

There are any number of street vendors, (sweet meat sellers, vegetable & fruit sellers, flower sellers, roadside eateries, small shops, sellers in weekly markets, etc.), who don’t pay any tax, and they number in the millions. Add to them very small makers of biscuits, bakery products, confectionery, other food items, and other manufactured items. Levy a 0.5% turnover tax on their daily sales.

Since everyone now has a bank account, (more or less), they can be linked to it with a Tax ID, like the Permanent Account Number (PAN). The Aadhaar Card should not be used, since we already have the tax system linked with PAN. Young men and women can be organized to visit each vendor physically in designated areas, with a dedicated Tablet, at the beginning of the day, to get the previous days sales figure, and transfer the tax due to the tax department online. The transaction can be authorized by the vendors over their mobiles. This system will avoid accounting creativity of gross profits, nett profits, etc., by linking the tax to the turnover.

One may have to think in terms of late night cash collection centres, a reverse of a third-party payment bank, which can credit the bank account of the vendors, without the vendor being required to visit his bank branch for deposits. The cash collection centres can be jointly owned by all the banks.
Effect: Revenue generation, and employment generation for the youth and the retired.

According to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, the number of street vendors is 10 million. Their website say that Mumbai has the largest number of vendors, at 250,000, Delhi has 200,000, Kolkata, more than 150,000, and Ahmedabad, 100,000. The actual numbers may be larger than that.

Indirect Taxes

Service Tax levels should not exceed 5%, and should ideally be between 1% and 5%, (remember “collect taxes like a honeybee”. A similar approach should be followed for sales tax, VAT, etc. There should be no service tax on bank transactions, credit card bills, and similar transactions.

No multiple taxation. If one goes out to eat food, one pays a single tax. One’s bill shouldn’t look like a complicated financial statement. Taxes and charges levied on passengers travelling by air are a typical example. You’ll notice that the taxes and charges at Rs 2,906 are nearly 2.6 times more than the base fare.

Airfare breakup-1Why should there be so many surcharges and taxes. Air travel is also part of the economic growth process. (A lot of other things require straightening out in the aviation sector, but that would require a separate article).

There is a need to reduce the tax collection points for manufacturing and distribution. The retailer should not be a part of the process. There should only be two points of collection, the manufacturer, (excise and sales tax), and the distributor, (any local taxes).

Banking

Banks-Overdraft chargesThere have been certain anti-customer moves by banks in India over the last few years.

Minimum Balance Charges
Minimum balances for ordinary savings accounts, with a debit card, (daily cash limit — Rs 50,000, PoS — Rs 1 Lakh), cheque book (20 leaves), and internet banking, should be between zero to Rs 500. This will take care of a bulk of bank account holders. Private banks are the biggest culprits in this regard, with minimum balance charges 10 to 30 times of those levied by nationalized banks. Moreover they do not offer any special facilities, which a bank like SBI with zero minimum balance requirements offers. There should be no minimum balance charges leviable on savings accounts.

Otherwise these become accounts with negative interest, when the minimum balance charges exceed the interest paid.

Banks are free to offer premium accounts with higher minimum balances to those who wish to opt for them.

ATM’s
ATM’s were supposed to relieve pressure on the staff at bank branches. Now all of a sudden they are complaining about costs of operating ATM’s, and the RBI was happy to go along by limiting ATM withdrawals to 4 a month. These need to be brought up to 15 withdrawals a month.

In fact going a step further, banks should stop operating individual ATM’s, since they say they are losing money. Hand over all ATM operations to White-Label ATM’s, which have been growing at a slow pace so far. The cost of ATM operations for banks will come down and customers will not be penalized.

There are other charges too, but these are the two main sticking points.

It may be worth getting a CAG audit done especially of private banks to see how much they earn by way of penalties, levies, and other such charges. They are always very happy to announce their profits, perhaps they can inform their customers where those profits come from.

Mother Branch: In an era of computerised all-branch banking, and scanned signatures and photographs, customers should be able to get things like passbooks or other documents issued by any branch, rather than be told to go the “mother branch”. (One should be able to get a physical verification done at any branch).

Clearances and approvals

Solar Power is the flavour of the season. It can require something like 40 clearances/approvals for setting up a solar project in some states. It is recognized that clearances and approvals are required for projects, otherwise there would be chaos. However the process should be simplified and a concept of single-window clearance should be the norm

Environmental Clearances

If we have projects, then we require environmental clearances, and India’s record on this front especially for large projects, is not a happy one.

The Uttarakhand disaster was a prime example of “bending” rules.

Since clearances are given by government authorities, there is a conflict of interest situation, when the same authorities are involved in the preparation of EIA’s and SIA’s.

Preparation of EIA’s and SIA’s, could be done by organizations like the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Greenpeace, Centre for Science and Environment and the like. A copy of the report could be filed with the National Green Tribunal, to be referred to, whenever required.

This would prevent EIA reports saying that land is barren, when 3 crops are being grown on it, or a SIA report in favour of a port site, ignoring hundreds of fishermen and their families who will be uprooted and having their fishing catchment area destroyed.

A last thought. This is what happens when governments follow skewed taxation systems, and then insist that other countries help them recover money, which has been deposited there because of their high taxation rates.

US Taxes-1This was supposed to be about things to be done for ease of business, but like all other human activity it encompasses a lot more than just making rules simpler for establishing businesses. What is required is simplification of rules and procedures across the board, and removal of a lot of unnecessary irritants. Have only pointed out some examples. A lot of changes are necessary if India is to become a super-power, otherwise all the grand plans will remain dreams.

Pass The Butter . . . Please

Originally written in October 2012, adapted from a friend’s post and still valid in the present.

butter-vs-margarine-quoteThis is interesting . . . .

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.

It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavourings. . . .

Do You know the difference between margarine and butter?

Read on to the end . . . gets very interesting!

Both have the same amount of calories.

Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams, compared to 5 grams for margarine.

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.

Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added!

Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods.

Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.

And now, for Margarine.

  • Very high in trans-fatty acids.
  • Triples risk of coronary heart disease . . .
  • Increases LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)
  • Increases the risk of cancers up to five times.
  • Lowers quality of breast milk
  • Decreases immune response.
  • Decreases insulin response.

And here’s the most disturbing fact . . . The Part that is Very Interesting!

Margarine is but One Molecule away from being Plastic . . . and shares 27 ingredients with Paint

These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

Try this. Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:

  • no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)
  • it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny micro-organisms will not a find a home to grow. Why? Because it is nearly plastic. Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?

Share This With Your Friends . . . (If you want to ‘butter them up’ for better health)!

So breakfast, lunch, or dinner, make sure to say Pass the butter . . . Please

Chinese Proverb:
When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it for better health!

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