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Holy man, secular plan: clean up the River Ganges

03 08 08 - 03:43 Holy man, secular plan: clean up the River Ganges

By Mian Ridge

Varanasi, India - Most mornings, as the sun steals over the Ganges, Veer Bhadra Mishra takes a dip in India's holiest river. As high priest of a Hindu temple, it is his solemn duty. But as a scientist, the ritual is profoundly discomforting.

The Ganges, revered as a symbol of spiritual purity for more than 2,000 years, is today a filthy soup. This is especially true in the ancient pilgrimage site of Varanasi, where 32 old pipes on the riverbank disgorge raw sewage into the flow.

"I have a rationally trained mind," says the retired professor of hydraulics, who says he has contracted potentially fatal diseases from Ganges water. "But I also have a passionately committed heart." Mr. Mishra has used both in a 20-year river cleanup campaign now coming to fruition. With his spiritual clout in a country that's more than 80 percent Hindu and his scientific expertise, Mishra has won government approval for a pilot sewage-treatment program.

Religious imagery is never far from the lyrical speech of Mishra, who couches his environmental language in terms of saving the "Ganga Ma," or the Mother Ganges. Even more than the compassion he shows for the well-being of Hindus, he seems most concerned about the health of Hinduism - how a dirty river might damage the faith.

Mishra inherited the role of high priest of the 400-year-old Sankat Mochan temple when he was 14 years old, following a centuries-old tradition of passing the job from father to eldest son.

But he has also been driven by scientific curiosity, becoming the first family high priest to wear Western-style trousers and to attend university. Later, he became a professor at Varanasi's renowned Benares Hindu University.

In 1982, he set up the Sankat Mochan Foundation - named after his temple - which has led the city's clean-river campaign with an unusual mixture of science and spirituality.

A meeting with the prime minister

More than a decade ago, with scientists from the University of California in Berkeley, Mishra developed what many environmental experts attest is a cheap, sustainable system for diverting the city's sewage away from the river, and cleaning it.

The scheme was unanimously accepted by the city council nearly a decade ago, but the state and central governments rejected it. Gentle-mannered Mishra continued his tenacious lobbying, and last year secured a meeting with prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Last month, he heard what he describes as "the best news in 20 years."

On June 30, the central government wrote to him, telling him it would support a pilot run of his scheme in Varanasi and suggesting it would hold back support for a much costlier, ineffective state government-led scheme.

"If the result is convincing, it will be difficult for the government to refuse to roll it out," he says, with a broad smile. He says he is confident the system will not disappoint, but only hopes that the government will reverse years of "disastrous" policy on the Ganges.

The Ganges flows over 1,500 miles, from the Himalayas across the densely populated plains of India, into Bangladesh, before gushing into the Bay of Bengal.

It would be difficult to exaggerate how sacred the river is to Hindus, who see it as an incarnation of the god Ganga.

"Man becomes pure by the touch of the water, or by consuming it, or by expressing its name," says Lord Vishnu in the Ramayana, a poem written in the fourth century BC.

But while India's Hindus have maintained their reverence for the river, modernization - in the form of speedy population growth, urbanization, and industrialization - has sullied it. There are more than 100 cities, numerous towns, and countless villages scattered along its banks. Some 500 million people are dependent upon the Ganges for water. As it has been siphoned off for irrigation, its water levels have fallen.

Climate change is also taking a disastrous toll. The Himalayan Gangotri glacier, the source of most of the Ganges' water during India's long, hot summers, is shrinking by 40 yards a year, say scientists. By 2030, they warn, it could disappear altogether - making the Ganges dependent upon erratic monsoon rains.

While environmentalists urge India, a top greenhouse-gas producer, to take action, Mishra says that an opportunity is being lost to tackle the much simpler problem of domestic sewage pollution.

Few of the fast-growing cities and towns along the Ganges' banks - indeed, few in India, period - have sewage treatment plants. But the problem is especially crucial in Varanasi, where millions of Hindus make annual pilgrimages to pray and ritually bathe on the broad stone steps that lead down to the river from the riverbank temples.

The World Health Organisation, which labels dirty water as the leading cause of child deaths in India, says the coliform bacteria count is some 3,000 times higher than it considers safe.

That hasn't stopped the pilgrims at its banks, however, who may be unaware of such concerns.

Small boys water bomb into the river beside pious elderly men dressed in loin cloths who pour water over their heads. Sari-clad women murmur prayers as they scatter fragrant rose and jasmine petals, seemingly oblivious to the small islands of reeking rubbish that float by.

India's government, however, has been aware of the problem for some time. Twenty years ago, it launched the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), a multimillion-dollar scheme intended to clean up the river by means of wastewater treatment plants.

Replacement for government plan?

A near-consensus among experts exists that GAP has been an expensive disaster. The plants handle only a small amount of the sewage generated along the river. Because they rely on electrical pumps during power cuts - frequent in India - even the small amount of sewage they're meant to handle often flows into the river. And, experts say, when the floodwaters rise, sewage enters the slump well of the pumps, stopping operations for months of the year.

Most seriously, the GAP system is designed to remove solid waste but not microorganisms. Mishra's scheme is different. His adaptation of an "advanced integrated wastewater pond system" (AIWPS) developed by Prof. William Oswald at Berkeley and in operation in parts of California, is, experts say, suitable for a tropical climate like India's.

Instead of depending on scarce supplies of electricity, the system would use gravity to carry sewage to four big pools, built on wasteland several miles outside the city, where it would be broken down by bacteria, algae, and sunlight.

An independent assessment found the plan was cheaper and more effective than the existing scheme. He hopes that his pilot project may one day become a model for other Indian towns and cities. But his inspiration remains the Ganges.

"All our rivers have stories," he says, as a wooden boat of pilgrims floats by his window, trailing flickering floating candles in the gathering dusk. "All our rivers are important. But there is nothing anywhere like the Ganga." Used tags: , , , ,

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Alternative energy and related video search+watch+upload+share

Monday 28 January 2019 at 03:31 am Just in case anyone hasn't seen this yet, it is a great resource for everyone who is interested in alternative energy, green tech, diy and related how-to.
Search-watch 1000's of videos - Upload your own -Start your own channel and share-discuss your projects. Sign up now.

http://gp.alternate-energy.net/ more

Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

Saturday 16 July 2011 at 06:07 am Raging wildfires: Climate changes to blame for record season?

By Pete Spotts

The images are stark: soot-grimed firefighters steering bulldozers or wielding shovels to clear underbrush; curtains of orange flame tracing the contours of summits; aircraft dumping chemicals to slow a fire's progress.

Between Jan. 1 and early July of 2011, slightly more than 38,000 wildfires charred the landscape in the United States at a record pace. So far this year, wildfires have consumed just under 4.9 million acres of forest and grassland, a cumulative expanse the size of New Jersey.

That's 1 million more acres than fires consumed during the same period in 2006, which saw a record 9.9 million acres burned for the entire year.

Beyond the numbers, this year's fires may provide the first large-scale tests of the effectiveness of projects undertaken over the past decade to help forests survive wildfires, several specialists say.

The West's forests are adapted to deal with certain types of wildfires, researchers note. But since the mid-1980s, they add, some of these forests have experienced an increasing number of fires to which they are not well adapted.

Many researchers trace this shift in part to climate change. more

Hybrid Moves Into Housing

Sunday 22 May 2011 at 01:14 am Hybrid Moves Into Housing

By Brenda Krueger Huffman

(Chicago) – Recycling - Check. Conserving energy - Check. Hybrid car - Next car, check. Hybrid home system - What? Yes, it’s here. Hybrid has seamlessly, successfully moved into housing.

Safety Power, Inc. was initially started to provide homes with back up power. The company quickly grew to include renewable energy options and advising commercial and industrial clients with electrical conservation. Recently the company has come full circle and began marketing a new more capable type of renewable energy system for homes.

The award winning firm was voted one of the “Top 5 Sustainable Product Companies in Illinois” and continues to grow its residential client base in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Safety Power also serves larger firms on the national level.

Robert Brazzale, President of Safety Power, a master electrician turned entrepreneur, began Safety Power in 2007. An avid member of Local First Chicago, Rob believes in assisting sustaining local economies with green collar jobs and belongs to many green orientated groups in Chicago and around the country. more

Are electric car makers missing the trick?

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 11:12 am Are electric car makers missing the trick?

by Martin Ott

I believe that electric car makers may be driving us all down the road that may result in the same sort of technology failures that we have seen in the past.
I'm not referring to the Sinclair scooter here but cast your mind back to the débâcle of Betamax v VHS home recording systems. The eventual winner was the technically inferior VHS but the battle was not resolved until innumerable consumers had paid out for worthless Betamax systems. Back in the 70's a similar conflict occurred over audio systems when America fell in love with the 8 track tape system that moved magnetic tape in a loop over the player head at a high speed resulting in a better sound. The world market finally dictated that the audio cassette was the way to go but not until millions of consumers had been lumbered with home and in-car systems that went down the technological cul de sac. more

Wind Turbine Manufacturer Acknowledges SGS´s Contribution towards Successful Project Completion

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:57 am by Suresh Varma

The Theni Wind Farm project was developed by CLP India Pvt. Ltd., one of the major wind farm project developers in India. Located in the south western part of Tamilnadu, a southern state of the country, the facility consists of 60 Vestas V82 geared wind turbines. As recognition of its contribution towards the successful execution of this wind power project SGS received Vestas award.

Each turbine at the wind farm has a capacity of 1.65 MW IEC Class IIB machine with a blade diameter of 82 m. After a six-month long completion period, the Theni Wind Farm was officially opened in May, 2010.

Acting as contract engineer during project execution, SGS was responsible for ensuring that all activities were carried out at the site by the contractor in line with the final agreement. In doing so, SGS supervised the quality of construction works, the fulfillment of the technical parameters and kept the project within the scheduled time and contracted price. more

E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

Tuesday 29 March 2011 at 10:37 am E.ON uses PPC's Broadband Powerline technology in smart grid project

by Power Plus Communications

Mannheim - Power Plus Communications AG (PPC), the leading provider of Broadband Powerline Communication systems (BPL) for smart grids has taken on a key role within an E.ON smart grid project to facilitate an extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution.

E.ON Westfalen Weser AG is currently trialing smart grid technology within its network of 1.3 million inhabitants and PPC's proven medium voltage BPL solution has connected substations in the project using the existing power grid.

Using BPL technology, standard compliant and IP-based data transfer rates of 5-30 Mbit/s can easily be achieved via the medium voltage cable itself. Within E.ON’s smart grid project, PPC's medium voltage technology facilitated the extension of Cisco's Connected Grid Solution. The Cisco smart grid Router and Switches used in the project are highly compatible with BPL networks, providing a real cost advantage over fiber optic networks – which can be much more expensive where cables are not pre-existing.

By combining their technology at Westfalen Weser, PPC and Cisco have ensured the evolution of fast and efficient smart grids which are controlled on an IP basis. This increases the reliability of the power grid, fulfills regulations and drives down costs. At the same time this modern smart grids communications technology makes it possible to effectively integrate renewable energy into the grid. more

MIT Infrastructure "Life Cycle" Study is Progress Both Left & Right Can Embrace - Part 2, Fiscal Responsibility

Saturday 19 February 2011 at 09:02 am By Brenda Krueger Huffman

Chicago – Perhaps moving to the center is where we all need to be politically on the environment and effective spending compatibility. Not all green technology is crazy, and not all business profit or government expenditure is evil.

Even if you do not believe in man caused climate change, we can all agree leaving a cleaner planet and a more fiscally responsible government for the next generation is preferable to not doing so.

Perhaps green technology can be cost effective, and government fiscal responsibility may realistically include affordable green initiatives. Honest “life cycle analysis” and “life cycle cost analysis” study considerations should be a political compromise starting point both the left and the right can embrace. more

Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

Thursday 27 January 2011 at 11:05 am Global warming: Impact of receding snow and ice surprises scientists

By Pete Spotts

Washington - A long-term retreat in snow and ice cover in the Northern Hemisphere is weakening the ability of these seasonal cloaks of white to reflect sunlight back into space and cool global climate, according to a study published this week.

Indeed, over the past 30 years, the cooling effect from this so-called cryosphere – essentially areas covered by snow and ice at least part of the year – appears to have weakened at more than twice the pace projected by global climate models, the research team conducting the work estimates.

The study, which appeared online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience, represents a first cut at trying to calculate from direct measurements the impact of climate change on the Northern Hemisphere's cryosphere. The study was conducted by a team of federal and university scientists who examined data gathered between 1979 and 2008. more

EPA presents plan on greenhouse gases

Wednesday 05 January 2011 at 10:38 pm By Mark Clayton

Washington - Setting the stage for a New Year battle royal between Congress and the White House over greenhouse gas emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency Thursday laid out a timetable for the nation's largest carbon emitters – power plants and refineries – to begin curbing those pollutants.

Republicans have said all year that they plan to pull out all the stops to keep the EPA from phasing in greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations beginning in 2011, saying they would damage the energy industry, raise prices, and cost jobs.

Rep. Fred Upton (R) of Michigan, the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said he opposes the regulations on greenhouse gases and indicated he would lead efforts to revoke EPA regulations in the next Congress. The new regulations, he says, will likely lead to the shut down of coal-fired power plants.

"To protect jobs and fortify our energy security, we should be working to bring more power online, not shutting plants down," Mr. Upton said in a statement. "We are woefully unprepared to meet our nation's growing energy demands, yet this administration's 'none of the above' energy policy will do nothing but cost jobs, make energy more expensive, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."

Environmentalists lauded the EPA's move. more

Supreme Court takes global warming case that targets power companies

Monday 13 December 2010 at 03:21 am By Warren Richey,

Washington - The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine a major environmental lawsuit that seeks to force six electric power companies to cap and reduce their carbon-dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The lawsuit - filed in 2004 by eight states, the City of New York, and three land trusts - targets what it claims are the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the United States and among the largest in the world.

It seeks a judicial order declaring that the fossil-fueled power plants are a "public nuisance." It also seeks a judicial order capping the plants' greenhouse gas emissions and requiring the plants to adopt a schedule of reduced emissions in future years. more