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Impact of IIT Guwahati on India’s North East Region

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Impact of iit guwahati in north east

Hill top view of IIT Guwahati

India’s North East region is one of the most strategically located region in the nation bordered by a number of countries and connected with the rest of the India through a small enclave. The region borders Nepal, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Bangladesh and is also known as the gateway to East Asia and South East Asia. Its strategic importance is further increased with India’s ‘Look East’ policy. However, the region as a whole has been somewhat neglected by the government and the media.

Trade with the South East Asian countries mainly via sea has seen a rise under India’s renewed policy of better engagement with the eastern nations, but the land connectivity has been ignored which can really help boost the development in north east. Negligence has been observed over all this time for the whole region including the eastern neighbour Myanmar. It is well known that in 1947 India was partitioned forming Pakistan, but very few know the fact that in 1937 Myanmar was divided from British India. Since Independence, India has not shown much interest in its divided arm in the east.

This is the first article in the series of North East India. We believe North East Region of India is somewhat neglected in the mainstream media, this is an initiative by The World Reporter to bring out the developments, culture, and issues faced by the people here to the rest of India and the world whatever is possible in our capacity. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay connected.

A more attentive and evaluated approach specially designed for north east is needed for the sustainable development of the region as simply implementing Gujarat or Bihar model will not work for this nature loving and culturally diverse place where each state has its own requirement. One of the biggest step taken by the government is the setting up of the campus of India’s most prestigious research and academic institute of technology, IIT. Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, founded in the year 1994, is among the first seven premium IITs which developed with time and established themselves as the seven pearls of India. IITG has been officially recognised as an Institute of National Importance by the government of India.

IIT Guwahati on the bank of river Brahmaputra
IIT Guwahati on the bank of River Brahmaputra

 

Unlike other IITs which are situated in the main cities, IITG is located in a remote area which has induced it to become one of the most active IITs to take up sustainable development projects in the greater region surrounding it. From better amenities and lifestyle in the city of Guwahati to improved management of natural resources and renewal energy, various professors and their team are working for preferable infrastructure and lifestyle that would not just help the north east, but whole country in the long term.

Dr. Arup Kumar Sarma of the Dept. of Civil Engg. with his team, in one of his ambitious project, assessed the groundwater fluoride contamination in the city of Guwahati. He took his study forward to study the iron, fluoride, arsenic contamination in the groundwater and its controlling measures in the affected regions of the north eastern states.

Possible groundwater fluoride contamination motivated Dr. A.K Sarma to undertake another project for the utilization of surface water for water supply in Greater Guwahati, this will not only restore the water table, but will also help study the fluoride contamination problem.

Numerous efforts are being made for the better management of north east’s life line, River Brahmaputra and to save the river from human activities. River Brahmaputra is ideally the longest river of India, However, it is known with a different name, Tsangpo, in Tibet making River Ganga the longest river flowing through India. Unlike many rivers in the Indian cities which are dry and dirty, the view of Brahmaputra on the way to IITG coming from the Guwahati city is spectacular with its large volume of water flowing really fast and its massive breadth containing small river islands in it.

Dept. of Civil Engineering of IITG has conducted several hydrographic surveys in the River of Brahmaputra, Ganga, Mekong and their tributaries for various projects like providing measures against flood, draught and river bank erosion.

Soil erosion along the river banks have caused great concerns in the region. According to official estimates from 1954 to 2003, Assam has lost four lakh hectares of land to erosion. Large chunks of land in many tea estates situated near the banks of rivers have been lost because of massive erosion due to the change in course of rivers in the three districts. Another aftermath of soil erosion is the loss in the area of Majuli Island. This island, situated in the River Brahmaputra, is the largest river island in the world which had a total area of 1,250 sq. Km. Now it has significantly come down to mere 421.65 sq. Km, a loss of nearly 66%! Dr. Arup Kumar Sarma’s team is devoted to study the erosion in the Braided Channel of the Majuli Island with a mathematical model.

North East region consists of some of the most difficult terrain, roads and railways are still intact where British engineers had left. Seeing this, north east can take advantage of its high volume rivers for making efficient waterways. IITG’s Civil Engg Dept. feels that North East India’s water resources are underutilized and a number of projects can be taken to provide the local people its benefits efficiently.

River Brahmaputra
River Brahmaputra, photo by Sagarika Dev Roy

IIT Guwahati is studying the scope of developing the River System of Brahmaputra as an Efficient Waterway and development of inland water transport in the east and north east India. Another study is examining the scope of linking various rivers and its tributaries in the region for flood mitigation and for efficient use of the fresh water as the river at last goes and merge with the Bay of Bengal Sea making the water unusable for drinking.

There have been growing concerns after an IITG study has found degrading water quality in the tributaries of Brahmaputra-Barak Basin. IITG is developing an environmental management strategy to tackle the issue as early as possible.

In more such research projects, IITG is studying the scope and constraints of reservoir project in North East India. In 2004, IITG team lead by Dr. A. K. Sarma conducted field investigation for developing a Detailed Project Report for a mini hydroelectric project in a remote area of Manipur.

A study conducted by IIT Guwahati on the impact of climate change on the water resources of the Brahmaputra basin brought to the light that there would be symbolic changes in rainfall pattern and temperature in the future. “High intensity rainfall of shorter duration and longer dry spells will affect the flood and drought scenario,” said, The chairman of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), Bidyananda Barkakoty. This will cause significant damage to the tea crops in Assam and north east which is the most famous black tea in the world. Growing concerns in the tea industries, in 2011, tea gardens in Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Jorhat districts approached IITG for developing rainwater harvesting infrastructure for better nurturing of tea crops tackling climate changes.

In the area of sustainable development, quality of lifestyle and natural resources a lot of attempts and achievements have been made by the IITG, but that is not where its role ends. IITG has also taken up the challenge of refining and nurturing the most promising resource, the human resource.

No doubt every year IITG produces first class international standard science and engineering graduates, IITG has also dived into giving short term management and training courses for local students with Indian Institute of Management Shillong. IIM Shillong was the earliest addition to the well-known already established six IIMs across India. Thus, North East region received again the seventh campus of most prestigious management institute of India, IIM. IIT-G and IIM-S together will be providing courses encompassing subjects like management, entrepreneurship, tourism and hospitality with an attempt to stop the emigration of youngsters from the North-East to other parts of India, while also helping them refine their skills for better employment opportunities.

In a similar program with a motive of creating entrepreneurs in north east IITG has setup Entrepreneurial Development Cell (EDC) which is a special interest group under Technical Board of the Students Gymkhana Council responsible for activities and initiatives to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the IITG community as well as the youth of North-East India. The EDC organizes lectures, events and workshops to create a platform for students to realize their entrepreneur potential. Such a program will help develop businesses and create more jobs in the region helping prevent the exodus of youngsters from North East to other parts of India.

In a society where to most of us development means construction of malls, high rise residential buildings and hi-tech office complexes, in North East, IITG has made sure that every development benefits every class of the society without disturbing the nature, which is most revered by all of us.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Environment

Nuclear Power and Other Power Sources: How Do They Stack Up?

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Most everyone dreads the idea of nuclear war because of the abject devastation it would inflict on planet Earth. Yet few connect the dots between nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the same energy that makes atomic bombs and nuclear missiles so threatening is also harnessed to power electrical grids and other forms of infrastructure. When properly contained, nuclear power is the cleanest and most abundant energy source available. With all the concern over climate change and environmental degradation, it begs a huge question: why is the United States of America not generating more — much more — nuclear energy?

Capital Investment vs. Production Costs

Looking at it from one angle, a larger nuclear energy capacity is a no-brainer. Making electricity from nuclear sources is cheaper than using coal, gas or petroleum, i.e. fossil fuels. On average, using 2011 cash value, electricity cost 21.56, 3.23 and 4.51 cents per kilowatt-hour from petroleum, coal and natural gas, respectively. Nuclear power came in at 2.10 cents per kW according to data received by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Yet these simple ongoing production costs fail to tell the full story.

To up the power generating capacity of nuclear sources, additional plants are necessary. Some argue that the savings in electricity production means the nuclear utilities pay for themselves. What, though, are they paying for…and how long until the payoff? Engineering and constructing a nuclear power plant is very expensive. In fact, 74 percent of the cost of nuclear-sourced electricity is in the capital costs of creating the physical facility and technology for that purpose. Some estimates range drom six-billion to nine-billion dollars. Others estimate over $5,300 per kW before it begins paying for itself…in 20 to 30 years. These figures make the prospect cost-prohibitive to many decision makers in government and business.

Plentiful Energy at Low Costs without Nuclear Power

Were we living back during the oil shocks and embargoes of the 1970s, the urgency factor would be much higher concerning nuclear power in the US. The abundance of discoveries and advancement of technology have made fossil fuels more available at modest prices. Coal and petroleum are each low compared to their peaks. With the advent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” natural gas is ever more accessible and affordable. Though people may worry about the environmental effects of burning these substances, they are likely to continue usage to maintain a decent househild cash flow.

Still, even the renewable alternatives to traditional fuels are dropping in price. In terms of sheer volume, wind turbines and solar panels — for instance — have yet to match the output of fossil fuels, much less the overwhelming energy yield of nuclear. Nevertheless, their contribution to production in the United States is growing while their financial outlays are shrinking. Added to the two aforementioned renewable sources, hydro-electric power, biomass and geothermal each come in under 10 cents per kW. According to Forbes magazine, this makes them highly competitive with oil and gas financially.

Lack of Knowledge

The absence of urgency mentioned above relates to a third factor about why Americans are not expanding their nuclear production capacity. Generations have passed that are not well-informed about the potential and reality of nuclear power. A dangerous accident at Pennsylvania’s Three-Mile Island facility in the 1970s scared public officials and policy makers into backing off of a pro-nuclear agenda. The improvements and replication found in today’s safety protocols have been ineffective in re-booting a national conversation. Granted, the United States operates 97 nuclear reactors, more than any other country. Yet only four more are under design and/or construction compared to 20 for China.

Furthermore, France relies on nuclear for three-quarters of its electricity; several eastern European nations, half; South Korea, in excess of 30 percent; while the U.S. can claim around 20 percent. Clearly, the public knowledge regarding how clean and abundant atomic energy is meager; awareness of past accidents — including the Fukushima Daiichi and Chernobyl meltdowns of recent decades were, by contrast, reported widely by media outlets.

Advocates of nuclear power have work to do to bring Americans on board. Otherwise, dirtier, cheaper sources will continue to reign.

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Francisco Reynés: “We have to consider gas as the energy source with the most potential in the future”

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Natural Gas

Francisco Reynés, executive chairman of Naturgy (formerly Gas Natural Fenosa), has talked about the role of gas in the world as the energy source with the greatest potential in the future, at the 6TH IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum celebrated in Barcelona, Spain.

 Francisco Reynés has explained that the world “needs to talk about the different uses of natural gas and the gas technologies and innovations towards a sustainable energy future. We have to address the role of gas in the world as a future energy source, not only as a transition source of energy”.

 “The uses of gas are, as we all know, well beyond those of power generation. Gas provides sources for non-energy uses, such as petrochemicals or fertilizers, which have no clear substitute”, he added.

 About this possibility, Francisco Reynés has explained that “all of this will benefit and service the economic growth and development of the countries and economies around the globe. It is, indeed, a joint effort which we must all face with the utmost priority and the maximum care”.

Reynés has also insisted on the cooperation between governments, producers and even consumers to strengthen the security of gas supply on international markets. “The challenge for the future is how energy systems will evolve to meet greenhouse gas emission goals, and more stringent fuel quality standards while at the same time they respond to growing demand for affordable access to reliable energy services”, he concluded.

The 6th IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum aims to sharpen a collective focus on energy policies, market trends, and technology options that enable the gas industry to deliver inclusive growth and successful transformations for a secure, inclusive and sustainable energy future. Energy and climate policies, gas technologies and innovations as well as market fundamentals are ever more co-dependent but also vary across geographies.

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You can’t fight nature, but you can be ready for whatever she throws at you

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tsunami

The human race has got used to being in control of its surroundings, and yet we will never be able to truly prevent some of the most devastating catastrophes that our planet can throw our way. Yet we still strive to protect all the things we have built and worked hard for, and technology is helping us to do that on a day to day basis.

Tsunamis are a reality and we need to be prepared for them

Despite all the advances in our technology, we have not yet found ourselves able to avert the most fatal of natural disasters. The fact remains that our planet is far larger than we can possibly control and despite being considerably safer than several million years ago in the early days of the Earth’s life, it still has the capacity to be volatile and terrifying.

Some of the  most devastating tsunamis in recent history have taken place in the last 60 years, with catastrophic loss of life and billions needed in humanitarian aid and reconstruction. The effects will last a lifetime for many areas as they try to recover and rebuild.

It is impossible to forget the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011. The consequences were absolutely devastating.

Striking Japan on the 11th March the earthquake reached an eye watering 9.0 magnitude, and generated a 33 feet high wall of water travelling as far as 6 miles inland. Some reports even record waves as high as 133 feet, with a 97-foot wave smashing into the city of Ofunato.

Around 25,000 people were killed or reported missing, and 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. But more worryingly the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was also struck causing a nuclear meltdown. The disaster is recorded at the highest level of International Nuclear Event Scale. The impact of this event is still being fully understood, and radiation from the plant has been detected as much as 200 miles away, with many areas remaining uninhabitable and will be for many years to come.

The loss of human life can be staggering due to a tsunami that hits with no warning. Take for example the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean. An unbelievable death toll of 230,000 was recorded across 14 countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The earthquake under the ocean was recorded at 9.3 magnitude, generating waves up to 93 feet high. Some waves hit land within 15 minutes, but some took as much as 7 hours.

Even those with time to evacuate were hard hit, mostly due to the complete lack of a tsunami warning system which meant very densely populated coastal areas being taken by surprise.

Early warnings save lives

By comparison, although damage to buildings and general destruction was widespread, the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami saw a considerable lower death toll.

With an earthquake of 8.1 magnitude and waves reaching 45 feet high, that travelled up to a mile inland there were 189 casualties recorded. The loss of life would have been far higher if it wasn’t for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre which gave people time to evacuate and reach higher ground.

There are several ways in which a tsunami can be detected. From recognition of symptoms, an earthquake can be quite hard to miss, to technological warnings from tsunami detection and forecasting. These are based on a combination of data collected by environmental sensors and using that data for tsunami modelling.

For example monitoring seismic activity and the magnitude of an earthquake can give an excellent warning of tsunami potential. However, it cannot be taken in isolation.  For larger earthquakes it is easier to underestimate the size of the quake, and therefore miscalculate the tsunami potential.

Rapid sea level monitoring will give the best warning

When managing the data collected, those carrying out the analysis have a hard decision. Declare a tsunami imminent, and risk a costly unnecessary evacuation, or make the decision to issue the warning to the public so that emergency plans can be activated.

They also need to be able to indicate clearly from the modelling how large the waves will be and when they will strike. Importantly they need to know when the danger will be over so that people can return safely to the evacuated areas.

The issue is that  tsunami detection and forecasting requires near-real-time observations from both coastal sea level instruments and open-ocean sensors. Fundamental gaps in coverage still exist, especially in open-water. This puts at risk the ability to give warning, and the ability to learn more about the behaviour of tsunamis after the fact which will further refine the accuracy of the modelling in the future. More coverage is needed, and the durability of the equipment a key factor.

New technology paramount for the detection of tsunamis

The installation of new tsunami buoys is without doubt the next step for addressing the coverage issue, and these buoys need to be smart with built in Tsunami Early Detection and Warning System. It needs to be able to detect an event and send that information to be centrally analysed.

Pressure sensors deployed in a water depth up to 7,000 meters can detect height variations on the water surface, and in order to resist the effect of the harsh elements and environments must be of the highest quality. It is now possible to obtain floats manufactured with a closed-cell polyethylene foam sheet that prevents water absorption.

In  terms of positioning and communication, all can be managed through GPS, and redundancy in place for communications via satellite, with a reaction time of less than one minute and powered by a double solar power system. These buoys are so durable they can provide much better confidence that there will be no failure of service in remote locations.

They are able to transmit a NOAA Tsunami Warning System compatible message and monitor the sea level column changes to within 1mm. This kind of monitoring will be paramount for buying enough time for evacuation and prevent the loss of life seen previously.

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