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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Global Warming to India's Rescue - Part I


Before I explain the meaning of the above heading, I wish to share a story that I first read in Thomas L. Friedman’s bestseller, “Hot, Flat and Crowded”

He says:

“In October of 2007, I was driving through downtown Hyderabad and passed the dedication of a new overpass that had taken two years to build. A crowd was gathered around a Hindu priest in a multicolored robe, who was swinging a lantern fired by burning coconut shells and praying for safe travel on this new flyover, which would lift traffic off the streets below.

The next morning I was reading The Sunday Times of India when my eye caught a color photograph of total gridlock, showing motor scooters, buses, cars and bright yellow motorized rickshaws knotted together. The caption: “Traffic ends in bottleneck on the Greenlands flyover, which was opened in Hyderabad on Saturday. On day one, the flyover was chockablock with traffic, raising questions over the efficacy of the flyover in reducing vehicular congestion.”

India's growth devoured a flyover that took more than 2 years to build in less than a day!

How is this story related to this column? Let’s find out.

'Global Warming to India’s rescue.' Firstly, is global warming really happening? Well it is and quite frankly if at this stage we are still discussing whether or not it is, as we are, then we have already lost half the battle.

Since this is not an article looking into the scientific basis of global warming, I will spare you the details, but there is no denying that some weird climate phenomenon is definitely taking place across our planet.

Once we have established the reality of Global Warming, we can focus on India’s response to it. And so far, it must be said, our response has been a negative one. Before leaving for the Copenhagen summit, our Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh appeared on all news channels giving interviews that more or less had this to say:  “that India will go there and be strong, that India will not give in to Western pressure to accept legally binding emission cuts.”

And that is exactly what happened. We went there and we basically told the developed countries, “You know what guys, you got to grow dirty for 150 years and well guess what? Now its our turn!”

Now there’s nothing wrong with that statement simply because it is the truth – the fact is that America and Europe grew their economies on cheap and dirty coal based power, but the problem lies in our attitude – for we fail to see the opportunities such a crisis can provide. Why? Because as Thomas L. Friedman likes to put it : “In a world going from 2.5 billion people in 1953 to 9.5 billion people in 2053, the next big industry after IT is going to be ET or energy technology. The country that goes green the fastest will be the one having Energy Security, Economic Security, National Security, Electrical Security, Competitive Companies, Healthy Environment, and Global Respect. There are 3 billion people who will enter the world economy from India, China, Brazil, each one of them having the ‘middle class’ dream of having a house, a car, a fridge, a microwave, a toaster & mother earth just cannot accommodate each one of them. We are heading towards an infrastructural and environmental disaster and therefore if we don’t find a cleaner, greener way to fuel their demands, we are going to burn up, choke up, heat up, smoke up this planet faster than any one realizes.”


The green technology problem is essentially an engineering problem. We must find a clean fuel technology that is better and cheaper than the existing dirty fuel based one. And this is where India can step in. We have so many engineers, all we need to do is simulate 10k engineers in 10k garages trying 10k different things of which 1 thousand will be promising, a hundred will be really promising and 2 of them will be the next green Google and green Microsoft. And why do I sound so confident? Well, has anyone heard of the Nano before?


(contd.)

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