Much of the malaise we have is man made. The conventional divide of haves and have nots was a mere speck of a stagnant cesspool which has swelled to a dangerously dynamic wild river thanks to contributions from tributaries like digital, rural-urban, religious, communal and other divides. Add to this global warming which too is man’s handiwork. The author has elaborated how the sugar industry, nurtured to stability can mitigate the above evils though not provide the panacea for all ills.
That paucity of power (electrical) is as potent a factor in bringing down governments as misuse of it (political) has been more than amply proved in recent elections. It is also well known that currently consumption of power is a strategic indicator of progress all around as how cement and steel have been.
Power scenario in India
Power requirement is estimated at 9,50,000 MW by the year 2030. Currently the installed capacity is 1,65,000 MW. Mostly it is thermal (64%) followed by hydro-electric (22%). Nuclear power is slated for major contribution (30,000 MW) in future. Power from renewable and non-conventional sources is negligible leaving large scope to be tapped. Co-gen from sugar industry is a major component in this with great potential for power production and its equally important concomitant – empowerment of society.
Role of sugar industry
With power in mind for progress we need to look at sugar cane more as a source of steam than sugar. Among the near 500 sugar factories across the country something like 2500 lakh tonnes of sugar cane is handled. The bagasse component (30% cane) can raise 1650 lakh tonnes of steam (2.2 tonnes steam per tonne of bagasse). This much steam in turn can produce 8800 MW power. (Basis being 75 tonnes steam per hour at a 2500 TCD plant with 87 Kg/sq cm pressure can generate 16 MW. We have adopted 4000 hours as average duration). Of this 75 % can be had for the grid leaving the remaining 25 % for process. It is quite considerable and can save the country of minimum 20 to 25 nuclear plants (currently 20 nuclear plants produce 4780 MW).
Nuke and you
As said earlier Government of India is thinking in terms of power generation through nuclear outfits to the extent of 30,000 MW. Doubtless compared to thermal power based on coal, diesel, furnace oil and gas the emission effect is less. But then what of the disaster, if things go wrong at such nuclear outfits?
Manmohan – Merkel Meet
Very recently the German Chancellor Mme. Merkel came to India. It was gratifying to hear from her thatGermany is planning to rid itself completely of the nuclear saddle by the year 2022. Curiously Manmohan Singh was talking of more nuclear plants in India. Why Jaitapur and other potential disaster generators in the wake of Chernobyl and Fukushima? Can one imagine what disaster will have followed had the Tsunami, which caused havoc in coastal Tamil Nadu a decade back, touched Kalpakkam? Many in the know of things said it was a touch and go. A country like ours – populous and with not much of a disaster management wherewithal to talk about will have been devastated.
Cancun, Kyoto protocols, carbon foot print, green house emission etc have become common entities in our lexicon today. We are well informed of global warming but not as yet aware of its ever increasing deleterious effect on seasonality and the very sustenance. That we are hurtling and plummeting towards disaster, thanks to this phenomenon we are not that much aware. Before industrial revolution CO2 ppm level was 280 related to a global temperature of 57 deg F and in 2007 it was 380 ppm and 58 deg F respectively. The threshold level alarmingly is just 450 ppm when all ice caps will melt and lakes will disappear. This will just about indicate where we are heading to. Of course it is the result of so many factors – automobiles, air conditioners, industry spewing CO2 and other noxious gases, mobile towers depending on diesel generators, denuding of forests for urbanization all of which we unwittingly take as indices of progress.
Progress at what cost or ecology and environment at what cost is currently the fashionable debate with, curiously non-stake holders contributing more to it. Industrialisation we must have but let us be discriminatory and opt for those which does not injure nature and impinge on good life.
Specifics of sugar industry’s role
It is here the great role sugar industry can play not only in producing clean power, so much required for rural housing, IT, hospitals, industry etc, but also as provider of employment opportunities in the rural areas.
As it will have dawned on you sugar industry has twin pronged benefits:
1. Mitigation of emission oriented problems
2. Economic development and employment opportunities in rural areas
Let us elaborate – As said earlier on today’s estimates of cane crushed by the sugar factories it can produce 8800 MW. Approximately 6200 MW can be surplussed for use, perhaps prioritizing for rural electrification, agro-based industries and even enabling IT to go rural which has not happened because of paucity of electricity and other adjuncts like communication network and connectivity which can be catered to by power availability. Such power can also cater to farming front – irrigation pump sets and also for cold storage absence of which handicaps horticulture efforts currently.
Apart from bagasse which is available only during the season to enable year round operation of the power production facility we should think of utilizing sugar cane trash, corn cobs, and other agri wastes.
When we talk of power from sugar industry we talk of power alcohol also from our distilleries. This should be used to blend petrol and diesel which will not only lessen the emission effect but save considerable foreign exchange involved in importing crude ( it is a pity that even the humble 5 % blending the Government has approved has found impediments from chemical lobby which fears that they will be starved of alcohol if we go by the recent statement made by Indian Sugar Mills Association president. The current news of UP government denying transport permits for alcohol because the distilleries refused to pay the cess imposed is also related to such bottlenecks connected with blending. It is something like cutting the nose to spite the face. Of course the industry is also to be blamed as many times they have preferred giving alcohol to IMFL because of higher price and prompter off take).
Blending can be done in bio-diesel also. Sugar industry in collaboration with railways, biggest users of diesel can work on a scheme to plant non-edible oil bearing plants like jatropha and hunge in marginal lands and government lands belonging to railways on either side of the track. Esterification and blending plants can be located in logistically convenient places.
Similarly sugar factories should encourage battery operated cane transporting vehicles with power kiosks at convenient locations for charging the batteries utilizing the power produced from the sugar factories.
A digression it may seem but the authors felt for greater empowerment it will be worthwhile for sugar factories being involved in promotion of tourism in their area of operation. The splendour of scenic spots, places of heritage and historical importance which is around almost each and every one of the sugar factories in India can be show-cased. This will expose urbanites and tourists from abroad to the glories of rural life. This exercise shall be a synergical effort on the part of factories, cane growers and Government.
“Power corrupts and absolute power, absolutely” said Lord Acton. But the power we have been talking about hopefully will give the shock required to bestir all of us and the powers that be towards plans of action. All the above should account in a holistic way for greater salutary impact on ecology and environment and also provide for new class of employable rural youth. Agriculture graduates can be absorbed in rural call centers and BPO’s, agriculture engineering graduates can man the work shops for harvesters, tractors, balers etc. Electrical engineers will be helpful in the massive rural electrification efforts, arts graduates can be useful in tourism operation etc. All these will give a great fillip to effective counters to the forces that widen the rural – urban divide. This will also cater to the welcome philosophy of PURA – Provision of Urban comforts in Rural Area that was close to Dr. Abdul Kalam who had a great faith in this in checking the promiscuous migration from rural areas to cities and towns.
Well, all these doubtless will read rosier than even some of the recent election manifestos. But then the potential is there. We need only have political and public will that is so essential a component for concerted and continuous efforts that is warranted.
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