With the construction industry having a huge environmental footprint, especially in developing nations like India, where a lot of construction take place over the next 50 years, timber and bamboo offer a solution to reduce carbon emissions, says an expert. Steel and cement manufacture are deemed to produce around 8 percent each (i.e. around 16 percent) of the world's carbon emissions. The nations must find substitutes for these materials.
The construction industry has a huge environmental footprint. According to some sources it is responsible for about 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions between the construction of buildings and infrastructure and operation of buildings, David Trujillo, an assistant professor in Coventry University's School of Energy, Construction and Environment, said.
He spoke to IANS in detail about the structural utility of bamboo, and how its use in the construction industry could help to step up efforts to combat climate change.
"In developing nations like India, where we would expect a lot of construction to take place over the next 50 years, this is likely to be very significant. We must find substitutes for steel and cement materials," he said in the interview.
"In developing countries, it is very common to construct buildings out of reinforced concrete and concrete blocks. I believe this is accurate for India also. We must change the way we build."
Responding to why bamboo is an important material, he said timber and bamboo offer a solution to reduce carbon emissions for two reasons: First, transforming them into useful materials requires little energy input.
And second, if responsibly grown and harvested, they can potentially act as carbon sinks.
"However, in most developing countries we have few established commercial forests ready to be exploited, and we must avoid exploiting primary forests. If we committed to planting timber forests now, it would be at least 25-50 years before we could harvest them.
"We cannot wait that long. Many developing countries in the tropics and subtropics have plenty of bamboo resources, this includes India. It is a resource that is ready to be exploited.
"And if they do not have them, it will only take about 10 years from green field to highly productive forest. Bamboo forests are easy to exploit, and in fact perform better if they are regularly exploited," the Coventry University researcher told IANS.
He was at the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow for delivering a presentation on why bamboo could play a crucial role in the future of the construction industry.
On how wide of a scale bamboo could be planted, he replied: "As bamboo can be, and has been, introduced in degraded soils, it seems possible that any increase in plantation and production can be undertaken without displacing primary forests or agricultural land.
"Another key benefit is that initial studies seem to suggest that bamboo is more productive per hectare and sinks more carbon, than timber."
About the social benefits of bamboo in construction, he said there are many.
"Firstly, it creates an additional and continuous source of income for rural communities. Unlike mining, which is capital intensive and concentrated, bamboo exploitation requires little capital and can be spread broadly.
"However, there are plenty of opportunities to generate new industries associated with it: preservation, transformation, etc. Modern bamboo housing has an excellent track record in disaster resilience (earthquakes and typhoons), low costs and high levels of thermal comfort.
"It is expected that construction of multi-storey engineered bamboo frames (for now only a potential and not current technology) would have similar benefits that modern timber structures have: better working environments, lower air pollution during construction, improved working conditions, etc."
Even before the bursting of crackers, the air quality of Delhi-NCR region has worsened further as AQI of eight areas here has crossed the 400-mark and settled at 'severe' category by Thursday afternoon, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data showed.
AQI of five areas in Delhi, two in Ghaziabad was recorded over 400 by CPCB in its data collected at 1 p.m, showing Wazirpur (433), Alipur (406), Bawana (402), Jahangiri (439) Nehru Nagar (413) in Delhi, Loni (450) and Sanjay Nagar (404) in Ghaziabad and Sector 62 (420) in Noida among those under the last category of the index.
The meteorological agencies have predicted an AQI of 500 plus for Thursday and Friday when Delhiites burst crackers on Diwali day.
According to health experts, an AQI of such an extent may cause respiratory problems even in healthy people, and serious health impacts on people with lung or heart disease. The health impacts may be experienced even during light physical activity.
With stubble burning share in Delhi's air pollution set to increase over the next three days, SAFAR has projected an AQI of 500 plus on November 5 even if Delhiites burst 50 percent fewer crackers compared to the last year.
SAFAR, or the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research under the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) – an agency under the Ministry of Earth Sciences – said as per sensitivity simulation, stubble share on November 4 is predicted to increase to 20 percent and will touch a peak of 35-40 percent on November 5 and 6, if fire counts are considered same as today (3,500-4,000). This is largely due to transport-level winds reaching Delhi from North-Westerly, where stubble burning hotspots are expected, SAFAR said.
World leaders were in the UK for day three of the UN Climate Change Conference or COP26 on Tuesday where a wide range of announcements focused on signalling a clear shift from ambition to immediate action.
Countries made unprecedented commitments to protect forests, reduce methane emissions and accelerate green technology.
Amid powerful pleas heard in Glasgow on Monday, world leaders, young people and campaigners all stressed the urgency of taking tangible action to keep the prospect of holding back global temperature rises to 1.5 degree Celsius and building resilience to climate impacts.
A total of 114 leaders took a landmark step forward at a convening of world leaders on forests by committing to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The pledge is backed by $12bn in public and $7.2bn in private funding.
Countries from Canada to Russia to Brazil -- which also increased its Nationally determined contributions (NDC) on Monday -- China, Colombia, Indonesia and Congo all endorsed the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use.
Together, they support 85 per cent of the world's forests, an area of more than 13 million square miles which absorbs around one-third of global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels each year.
This announcement was bolstered with a commitment by CEOs from more than 30 financial institutions with more than $8.7 trillion of global assets, including Aviva, Schroders and Axa, committing to eliminating investment in activities linked to deforestation.
Tuesday is also the first time a COP in recent history has hosted a major event on methane, with 105 countries, including 15 major emitters, including Brazil, Nigeria and Canada, signing up to the global methane pledge.
This historic commitment, led by the US and EU alongside the UK COP26 presidency, equates up to 40 per cent of global methane emissions and 60 per cent of global GDP.
More than 35 world leaders have also backed and signed up to the new Glasgow Breakthrough Agenda that will see countries and businesses work together to dramatically scale and speed up the development and deployment of clean technologies and drive down costs this decade.
Signatories include the US, India, EU, developing economies and some of those most vulnerable to climate change -- collectively representing more than 50 per cent of the world's economy and every region.
The aim is to make clean technologies the most affordable, accessible and attractive choice for all globally in the most polluting sectors by 2030, particularly supporting the developing world to access the innovation and tools needed for a just transition to net-zero.
Work will focus on five key sectors -- power, road transport, hydrogen, steel and agriculture -- which together represent more than half of total global emissions and further demonstrate how countries are moving from commitments to tangible action.
Leaders signed up to the Glasgow Breakthroughs also committed to discussing global progress every year in each sector starting in 2022 -- supported by annual reports led by the International Energy Agency in collaboration with International Renewable Energy Agency and UN High-Level Champions -- and annual discussions of ministers across government convened around the Mission Innovation and Clean Energy Ministerial.
This 'Global Checkpoint Process' will seek to sustain and continually strengthen international cooperation across the agenda throughout this decade.
Leaders from South Africa, the UK, the US, France, Germany and the European Union have announced a ground-breaking partnership to support South Africa with an accelerated just energy transition.
As a first step, the international partnership has announced that $8.5billion can be made available over the next three-five years to support South Africa -- the world's most carbon-intensive electricity producer -- to achieve the most ambitious target within South Africa's upgraded and ambitious NDC.
A package of support, bringing together private sector finance and public sector expertise to scale-up African climate adaptation projects, providing life-saving support in the face of climate shocks to protect the most vulnerable.
Leaders raised the importance of adaptation to the impacts of climate change as a matter of survival. New countries came forward with adaptation communications, bringing the number of people covered by them and national adaptation plans to 2.3 billion.
COP26 President Alok Sharma said: "Forests are one of our best defences against catastrophic climate change, and essential to keeping 1.5C alive. This historic commitment will help end the devastating effects of deforestation and support the developing countries and indigenous communities who are the guardians of so much of the world's forests."
"The Glasgow Breakthroughs will help move us towards a global tipping point, where the clean, green technologies we need to reach net-zero and keep 1.5C alive are more affordable, accessible and attractive for all than the polluting practices we are leaving behind."
UPSC topper Shubham Kumar has said that he was not sure about cracking the examination this year, which was his third attempt.
His first attempt was in 2018. "After the second attempt in 2019, I got the 290th rank, and then I got into the Indian Defence Account Service," he said.
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on Friday declared the results of exams held in 2020. Kumar, a resident of Katihar district of Bihar, who has topped the Civil Services Examination 2020, said he is happy with his performance.
A total of 761 candidates have been recommended by the Union Public Service Commission for appointment in the bureaucracy of the country.
"I am very happy and feeling very good because I gave as much as I could... I was not sure that I would be able to do it this time," he told IANS.
Kumar has done civil engineering from IIT Bombay and hails from Katihar in Bihar.
"Currently, I am in National Academy of Defence Financial Management Pune and I am an official trainee in Indian Accounts Service," he said.
He said: "I was not that confident in the Mains this time as I was not able to answer all the questions well."
"Due to Covid, I was not able to prepare last year... I was all alone... friends became less and I could not talk to anyone, so it was like preparing by staying locked in a room."
Apart from Shubham, Jagriti Awasthi and Ankita Jain have secured the second and third positions respectively in the Civil Services Examination.
Even after the stiff opposition from the DMK government and the slugfest with the AIADMK-BJP combine in Tamil Nadu against conducting NEET exams, a total of 1,10,971 students from the state will take the exam scheduled from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Tamil Nadu has 225 examination centres for NEET. In the state capital, 17,992 students will take the exam in 33 centres.
Students will be allowed into the examination halls on a staggered basis with the first batch to enter classrooms by 10.30 a.m. and this will continue till 1.30 p.m., half an hour before the commencement of the examination.
Strict Covid-19 protocols will be ensured at the examination centres and students will be provided N-95 masks.
Coaching centres and schools had conducted mock examinations on Saturday as last-minute preparation for the mode of exam. Several students complained that by attending the exam wearing N95 masks created problems for them.
M.R. Geetha, a NEET aspirant from Triplicane in Chennai said, "I am attending the coaching classes of a private entrance coaching institute. On Saturday, there was a mock exam at the institute and we were told to wear N 95 masks and for the first one hour, it was fine but later it was irritating. I don't know how I will perform in such a situation."
Many students have been advised to do "Pranayama" by the coaching institutes and schools as a preparation for wearing the mask continuously for three hours and to increase lung power.
Helen David, a teacher of Physics of a prestigious school of Chennai told IANS, "It is indeed a tough proposition for students to take the NEET examination with the N 95 masks on. However, students are geared up and I don't think that they will underperform."
US President Joe Biden's Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry is slated to visit India next week to launch an initiative for mobilising funds for battling climate change ahead of the UN climate change conference in October, according to the State Department.
This will be his second visit to India as Biden's point-person on climate change, a priority area for the President.
Announcing the visit on Friday, the State Department said: "The Special Envoy's travel will bolster the US' bilateral and multilateral climate efforts ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow."
The Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD), which will be inaugurated during the trip, is one of the two main tracks of the US-India Agenda 2030 Partnership that Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate in April, the Department said.
Kerry is coming to India after failing to get any deals on climate change from China.
He met China's climate envoy Xie Zhenhua in Tianjin, away from the capital Beijing, but Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to him only by a video link.
Wang told him that cooperation on climate change cannot happen unless bilateral relations improved overall, according to China's Foreign Ministry.
The US should "cease containing and suppressing China all over the world", Wang reportedly told him as a pre-condition to cooperation on climate change.
While in Delhi, Kerry will meet Indian government officials and private sector leaders "to discuss efforts to raise global climate ambition and speed India's clean energy transition", according to the State Department.
Last month, India's Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav spoke to Kerry on the phone and tweeted afterward that they "discussed at length how the largest and oldest democracies can set examples for other countries on Climate Action. India stands committed to working with the US on Clean Energy".
On another front of the war on climate change, India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri worked with US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on developing clean energy, the other track of the India-US partnership.
On Thursday, Puri and Granholm co-chaired the first ministerial meeting of revamped India-US Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP) "to advance the climate and clean energy goals of both countries".
India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry said: "The two sides announced the addition of a fifth Pillar on Emerging Fuels, which signals joint resolve to promote cleaner energy fuels. A new India-US Task Force on Biofuels was also announced to build on the scope of work on cooperation in biofuels sector.
"The meeting also reviewed the progress on the India-US civil nuclear energy cooperation."
Ahead of the meeting, Puri spoke to her on Wednesday and tweeted: "We agreed to work closely through the revamped India-US SCEP, as part of the India-US Climate & Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership, scheduled for tomorrow."
Kerry visited India in April before the Climate Leaders Summit that Biden convened virtually to increase commitments to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing the use of clean energy.
The US pressuring India to set a net-zero emissions target that would require it to bring down its greenhouse gas emissions and to neutralise them with carbon and greenhouse gases being absorbed through more forests that absorb them or use new technologies to capture them.
The US paints India as the world's third-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, accounting for 7.17 percent of the world output.
It ranks below the US, which puts out 27.92 percent of the global emissions, and China, which emits 14.5 percent.
But this hides the fact that an Indian's greenhouse gas emission is only 1.91 tonnes per year, compared to 15.52 by an American even as Biden and Kerry press other countries to cut their emission.
New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the World Lion Day on Tuesday said the big cat population in the country has seen a steady increase in the last few years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India's "The lion is majestic and courageous. India is proud to be home to the Asiatic Lion. On World Lion Day, I convey my greetings to all those passionate about lion conservation. It would make you happy that the last few years have seen a steady increase in India's lion population," Modi said in a series of tweets.
"When I was serving as Gujarat CM, I had the opportunity to work towards ensuring safe and secure habitats for the Gir Lions. A number of initiatives were taken which involved local communities and global best practices to ensure habitats are safe and tourism also gets a boost," a government release said quoting Modi.
Minister of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav also tweeted, "A great conservation success story that must be told on #WorldLionDay. As many as 674 #AsiaticLions spread across 30,000 sq km reside and thrive in Gujarat. The big cat is re-colonising its lost territories. Let's continue to build on this."
The number of lions went up from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020. The same period witnessed a 36 percent increase in the distribution area of the lions from 22,000 sq km in 2015 to 30,000 sq km in 2020.
Asiatic lions are found in the protected areas such as Gir National Park and Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, and the agro-pastoral landscape of Saurashtra, covering nine districts in Gujarat.
Earlier in 2020, as many as 92 had died in the Asiatic Lion Landscape, many of them due to the canine distemper virus. Gir area also suffered massive damage, especially the loss of thousands of trees, due to Cyclone Tauktae this year.
The idea of relocating Asiatic Lions from Gir to Madhya Pradesh's Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary has been around since 1990. But it is still pending.
New Delhi, Aug 4 (IANS) Indian researchers have come up with an innovative hydrogen manufacturing route that increases its production three times and lowers the energy required that could pave the path towards environment-friendly hydrogen fuel at a lower cost.
As a fuel, hydrogen has a critical role to play in driving the paradigm shift towards a green and sustainable economy.
In addition to having about three-fold higher calorific value compared to non-renewable energy sources such as coal and gasoline, the combustion of hydrogen to release energy produces water and is thus completely non-polluting.
Due to the extremely low abundance of molecular hydrogen in the earth's atmosphere (350 ppbv), electric-field driven breakdown of water is an attractive route for the production of hydrogen.
However, such electrolysis requires high energy input and is associated with a slow rate of hydrogen production. The use of expensive platinum and iridium-based catalysts also discourages it for wide-spread commercialisation. Therefore, the transition to 'green-hydrogen-economy' demands approaches that lower the energy and material costs and simultaneously improve the hydrogen production rate, said a release from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
A team of researchers from IIT Bombay, led by C. Subramaniam, have come up with an innovative route that provides viable solutions to all these challenges. It involves electrolysis of water in the presence of an external magnetic field.
In this method, the same system that produces 1 ml of hydrogen gas required 19 pr cent lower energy to produce 3 ml of hydrogen in the same time. This is achieved by synergistically coupling the electric and magnetic fields at the catalytic site, the scientists explained.
The simple approach also provides the capability to retrofit any existing electrolyser (that uses electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen) with external magnets without a drastic change in the design, leading to the increased energy efficiency of H2 production.
This proof-of-concept demonstration for producing hydrogen has been published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
The electrocatalytic material -- cobalt-oxide nano-cubes that are dispersed over hard-carbon based nanostructured carbon florets -- is of prime importance to achieve this effect and was developed with the support of a grant from the Department of Science & Technology's Material for Energy Storage Programme in the Technology Mission Division.
"The intermittent use of an external magnetic field provides a new direction for achieving energy-efficient hydrogen generation. Other catalysts can also be explored for this purpose," Subramaniam said.
"A basic electrolyser cell of 0.5 nm3/h capacity can be immediately upgraded to a 1.5 nm3/h capacity by replacing the catalysts and supplying the magnetic field," added Jayeeta Saha and Ranadeb Ball, both students supported by the DST funding.
Having shown that the method is not very complicated either, the team is now working with an industrial partner to increase the TRL level and ensure its successful commercialisation.
"Given the importance of hydrogen-based economy, we aim to implement the project in a mission-mode and realise an indigenous magneto-electrolytic hydrogen generator," said Subramaniam, adding: "If their efforts are successful, we might be looking at an environmentally friendly fuel, hydrogen, replacing petroleum, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in the future."
Leh, July 22 (IANS) For a region that remained snowbound for six months and whose children had to travel nearly 400 kms to seek admission in a graduate-level college, Thursday's decision to establish a central university comes as a historic development.
The Union cabinet decision to establish a central university as a centre of learning and research, will also address the intellectual imbalance of the region.
Union minister Anurag Thakur made the announcement in Delhi that the central university would be established at a cost of Rs 7,500 crore in Ladakh and the news was received with delight in Leh.
Thakur said the first phase of the university would be completed in four years.
He informed that the Bill to amend the Central Universities Act, 2009 will be introduced to facilitate the formation of the central university in Ladakh.
The jurisdiction of the central university will cover the entire Ladakh including Leh and Kargil districts.
People of the Ladakh region said the decision marks the fulfilment of their ages-old aspiration while local students and scholars said they would work in the fields of science and technology with the objective of making the region an enviable place.
"We have always wished to have a top-level higher education centre in Ladakh and the decision to establish a central university will open up new vistas and nurture loftier dreams of our students", said Sonam Narbu, a resident of Leh town.
In addition to furthering the dreams of the local students and scholars, the central university will also attract Ladakhi teachers and researchers engaged in universities outside the region.
J. Tsering Namgyal, the BJP Lok Sabha member from Ladakh, has always been critical of a left-handed deal the region had been allegedly receiving when it was part of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state.
Thursday's cabinet decision should give Namgyal reason to celebrate for the establishment of the central university is a milestone in the 'unshackling of Ladakh' from darkness and exploitation.