UPSC Exam Preparation-Gist of Yojana May 2019 Issue: Harnessing Sustainable Energy

UPSC Exam Preparation: Gist of Yojana May 2019 Issue: Harnessing Sustainable Energy

Table of Contents: Harnessing Sustainable Energy

1. Introduction

2. Energy Efficiency is the Key for Sustainable Development

3. Tapping Sustainable Energy Alternatives

4. Financing Renewables in India

5. Steps to achieve India’s Solar Potential

6. Geo-Thermal and Ocean Energy Technologies

7. Biogas – A Story Untold

8. Driving a Green Transition for the Environment

9. India’s Conundrum: Aligning Emission Mitigation with Development

10. Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities

11. Forests and Water Conservation and Sustainable Development

Chapter 1: Introduction

Sustainable and renewable energy sources are a crucial strategic national resource. Creating environment friendly development programmes is one of the most challenging tasks. Harnessing sustainable energy resources becomes important while planning for energy programmes. And hence, meeting the nation’s energy requirements is high on the agenda of any government. Renewable energy sources contribute to a nation’s sustainable growth trajectory, in addition to protecting the environment, promoting investment and conserving ecology.

  • India, like most other countries, has a very high dependence on fossilized fuels for its energy requirements. The other major energy source is coal.
  • But, fossilized fuels are liable to be exhausted as they are not replenishable. Thermal plants are highly polluting.
  • At the same time, the need for energy is increasing at an alarming rate.
  • Hence the need of the hour is increased energy supply, which is replenishable and at the same time does not damage the environment.
  • India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions centre around:
    • promotion of clean energy, especially renewable energy;
    • enhancement of energy efficiency;
    • safe, smart and sustainable green transportation network;
    • abatement of pollution
    • efforts to enhance carbon sink through creation of forest and tree cover.

Clean Energy Sources:

  • Solar energy, bio-gas, geo-thermal energy and ocean energy are some clean energy sources that may help mitigate the ill-effects of environmental pollution.
  • While energy harnessed from oceans is still in a nascent stage in India, geo- thermal energy seems a more viable renewable energy technology that has the potential to provide clean energy for both electric power production and direct heat applications.
  • Bio-gas as an energy source can be a boon to rural India. Bio-gas energy can not only ease the energy situation in rural areas but also ensure waste recovery — both agriculture waste and dairy waste.

Other more well-known energy sources, like solar and wind energy are in use in some parts of the country. But financing renewable sources is a major issue. Financial assistance in the form of low-interest rate, long-term loan guarantees are some available means of addressing the high capital costs of creating renewable energy sources. As on date, India is heavily dependent on imported oil and gas as well as coal to meet its energy requirements. But concerted efforts are on, at the same time, to harness renewable energy sources and so that India is able to honour its commitments as per the Paris Accord on Climate Change.

Chapter 2: Energy Efficiency is the Key for Sustainable Development

Increase in the energy consumption in India:

  • In India the electrification of households has taken place on a massive scale and demand for energy has increased. One of the key reasons for this has been the growing population.
  • Another is the enormous increase in energy intensive economic activities.
  • As the conventional sources of energy are reducing and the renewable Sources are under developing phase, improving energy efficiency at all levels of the energy spectrum is the cost-effective and quick solution to address this problem.
  • There is a direct relation between energy, environment and sustainable development.
  • A country seeking sustainable development ideally must utilize only those energy resources which have minimal environmental impact.
  • Some of the concerns regarding the limitations imposed on sustainable development by environmental emissions and their negative impacts can in part be overcome through increased energy efficiency.
  • The government, through Nationally Determined Contributions has aimed to reduce emission intensity of GDP to 33-35% below what it was in 2005 by 2030.
  • However, to achieve this target, there is a need for a concerted move to ensure increased energy efficiency especially in 3 sectors- Industrial sector, Real estate, Consumer appliance.

Industrial Sector:

  • Industrial sector continues to be the highest energy consuming domain where energy consumption would play a vital role.
  • There is also huge potential for energy conservation and technology enhancement for efficiency in key intensive industries.
  • With an aim of energy efficiency improvement, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is implementing Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).

Perform Achieve and Trade:

It is a regulatory instrument to reduce specific energy consumption in energy intensive industries, with an associated market based mechanism to enhance the cost effectiveness through certification of excess energy saving which can be traded.

Real Estate Sector:

  • The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) envisages a phased approach for developing an energy conservation code for the residential sector.
  • The idea is to create a simple and implementable code focusing on building envelope which can be integrated with the existing building codes and bye-laws.
  • The design of the building envelope will have a direct impact on:
    • Heat conduction through the roof, opaque wall and glazed windows
    • Solar radiation gains through glazed windows
    • Natural ventilation
    • Day-lighting
  • The real estate sector consumes over 30 per cent of the total electricity consumption in India annually.
  • It is second only to the industrial sector as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases; of which around 75 per cent is used in residential spaces.

In this context, BEE has two programs:

  1. Eco Samhita, Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings
  2. Labelling for Energy Efficient Homes

Eco Samhita (Energy Conservation Building Code for Residential Buildings):

  • The Eco-Niwas Samhita aims to set minimum building envelope performance standards to limit heat gains ( for cooling dominated climates) and to limit heat loss (for heating dominated climate) as well as for ensuring adequate natural ventilation and day lighting.
  • This strategy enables most of the new urban housing stock to be brought into the net for capturing the opportunities and the Benefits of energy efficiency in residential buildings.
  • This critical investment in envelope construction and design made today will reap the benefits of reduced GHG emissions for the entire lifetime of the buildings.

Labelling Programme for Energy- Efficient Homes:

  • To enable consumers to compare building performances from a sustainable energy point of view, a comprehensive labelling scheme is important.
  • Energy labels help consumers to make efficient decisions through the provision of direct, reliable and cost less information. The objective of proposed labelling programme is
    • To provide information to consumers for Energy Efficient homes
    • Energy Sustainability for India
    • To achieve Indian NDC Targets
    • Market Transformation for Energy Efficiency in housing sector
  • This is expected to save substantial energy through improving energy efficiency to houses nationwide.
  • In conjunction with this, the programme also brings up various ancillary benefits:
    • The labelling regime shall also be a stimulant for the Indian job market.
    • It will also motivate material manufacturers to invest in energy- efficient material manufacturing in India.
    • Labelling mechanism shall cause a reduction in energy bills. This will empower individuals with a greater disposable income that can be consumed at other avenues, saved for future contingencies or invested for cash-generating asset creation for overall economic growth.
    • It helps the nation in working towards the fulfilment of Global Sustainable Development Goals 7 of the United Nations: Affordable and Clean Energy.

Consumer Appliances:

  • Consumer appliances are one of the important areas of energy consumption.
  • Daily household electronic appliances like AC, Microwave, Washing Machine etc. are included in this sector.
  • A lot of initiatives are being taken to reduce the energy consumption and to enhance the technology for energy efficiency in consumer durable sector.
  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has been promoting energy conservation through optimum temperature settings for Air Conditioners.
    • According to the study Of BEE, one degree increase in the AC temperature setting results in saving of 6 per cent of electricity consumed.
    • 24-26 degree Celsius default setting has been recommended by BEE for energy savings and also to reduce greenhouse gas emission.
    • Measures to promote advancement of technology and energv efficiency in Microwave Ovens which is becoming a popular household gadget, are also being taken.
    • Savings of over 3.0 Billion units of electricity are estimated at consumer-end through adoption of Star Rated Microwave Ovens and Washing Machines by 2030.
    • This would be equivalent to Green House Gases (OHG) reduction of 2.4 Million-ton of CO, by the year 2030 through these recent initiatives.

Chapter 3: Tapping Sustainable Energy Alternatives

Sustainable Development:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations, i.e, economic development that is conducted without depletion of natural resources.


  • India, which became a sovereign nation, had to develop its agricultural resources and national infrastructure to meet sustenance of approximately 330 million people and take the country on a development trajectory.
  • Until the 1970s, sustainable development had never attracted the imagination of the global community.
  • At the 1972 UN Conference in Stockholm, the world body raised concerns for preserving and enhancing the environment and its biodiversity to ensure human rights for a healthy and productive world.
  • The developing countries, including India, argued that their priority was development, whereas the developed countries made a case to bring environmental protection and conservation in the forefront of global agenda.
  • As India raced to catch up with the developed world, it was caught in a vortex to bring development and energy security for self-sufficiency.
  • At the Same time, it could join the environment bandwagon, as protection of nature was in our national DNA.
  • India has joined hands to fight against’ global Warming and Climate change and brought in responsible changes in its development doctrine and energy and usage to bring down its contribution to global warming.
  • In fact, today, India is at forefront of global against global campaign against these phenomena.
  • India’s energy requirement is being met primarily from conventional sources like coal and oil. But with worldwide concern over the impact of fossil fuel on climate and global warming, India decided to tap alternatives that contribute less carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
  • Globally, there is a realisation on the need move fast to find to arrest Climate Change, which would trigger more intense Storms, heat waves, more frequent and longer-lasting droughts, rising seas.
  • It also has direct effect on food livelihood, health and environment.

Effects of climate change:

  • According to World Health Organisation, climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health —clean air, safe drinking water, food security and shelter.
  • Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately additional deaths every year from malnutrition, diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and heat Stress.
  • Its cost to health is estimated to be between 24 billion US dollars a year by 2030.

Steps taken:

  • Since climate change is the defining issue of the present times, the world body has taken the initiative to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use to bring in improved health, particularly reduced air pollution.
  • India is a signatory to the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which has all nations to a common Cause to undertake efforts to combat climate change through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.
  • India has now embarked on a mission to bring down the share of fossil fuel in its energy basket, by tapping non-conventional sources.
  • India being the founding nation of International Solar Alliance has the leverage to switch over to cleaner energies and clean-up its smog-choked cities.
  • The National Solar Mission promotes ecologically sustainable growth, while addressing the country’s energy security challenge and contributing to global effort to meet climate change.
  • India has an ambitious renewable programme with a projected growth or achieving 40 per cent of its total power generation from fossil sources by 2030 to meet NDC target.
  • The target would place India among the world leaders in renewable energy use.

Alternative sustainable sources of energy:

  • If India develops its alternative and sustainable sources of energy, the country does not require crude imports.
  • It has the alternative sources in abundance as crude substitution, according to scientists involved in energy research.
    • Crude import is a key factor in India’s current account deficit (CAD), which currently is 1.9 per cent of the GDP.
    • The increasing CAD is a cause of concern for the country and if it crosses the threshold of 3 per cent of the GDP, it would badly affect the economic stability.
    • Besides, India’s import is hugely affected by the geopolitical situation, like the threat of sanctions by the United States on imports from Iran, the second biggest supplier of crude to India.
  • Another technology that has been unveiled by Indian scientists is for conversion of sewage into biofuels.
    • A sewage treatment plant (STP) launched in Delhi would convert 10 lakh litres of sewage into three tonnes of biofuel per day.
    • India has a huge potential for producing liquid and gaseous fuels from biomass.
    • A strategy for gradual reduction of import dependency has been initiated, as the country would continue to remain vulnerable to international situations.
    • The strategy targets to reduce import dependency by 10 per cent by 2022.
  • Besides biofuels, India has the potential to generate green energy from Solar, Wind, Geothermal, Ocean Thermal Energy, which are all non-carbon options and can help reduce carbon imports by demand substitution.
  • Also hybrids are expected to emerge in the energy sector like Wind-Solar and Wind- Solar-Biofuels.


  • Road transport sector accounts for 6.7 per cent of India’s GDP. Another major source of environmental pollution is nuclear power generation.
  • Nuclear plants create 50 per cent more thermal pollution than fossil fuel plants.
  • The challenge India faces now is to improve energy access to modern energy at affordable price in a sustainable and responsible manner without sacrificing economic growth and social development to meet the aspirations of its burgeoning population.
  • 72 per cent of transportation fuel demand followed by petrol at 23 per cent and balance by other fuels such as CNG, LPG etc. for which the demand has been steadily rising.
  • The domestic crude oil production is able to meet only less than one fifth of the demand, while the rest is met from imported crude.
  • India’s energy security will remain vulnerable until alternative fuels to substitute/ supplement petro-based fuels are developed based on indigenously produced renewable feedstock.
  • Though non-conventional sources of energy are not entirely without impact on environment, in comparison, it is the better option, being the lesser evil.
  • Fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas— do substantially more harm than renewable energy sources by most measures, including air and water pollution, damage to public health, wildlife and habitat loss, water use, land use and global warming emissions.
  • The extraction and utilization of coal have created a massive impact on environment with far reaching consequences. Nearly 65 per cent of India’s electricity is generated from thermal power, for which the feedstock is invariably coal mined in India.
  • Power generation through the Boiler-Turbine route results in atmospheric pollution due to the release of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, sulphur and nitrous oxides.
  • The other major energy source is oil. Oil pollution is an inescapable fact of life in the 21st century, when the teeming millions depend on oil for various modes of transport.
  • The process of extraction of oil, transportation and storage of oil cause enormous loss to the natural and human environment.
  • India has set a target to phase out petrol and diesel driven vehicles by 2030. Indian automotive sector is among the fastest growing industries in the world.
  • By 2020, it is expected, the annual demand for passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles and two wheelers in the country will be 46.7 million, turning India into the third largest vehicle market in the world.
  • As per International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, globally, transportation sector accounts for 30 per cent of worldwide energy consumption and is the second largest source of carbon dioxide emission contributing to 20 per cent of greenhouse gas.
  • India’s National Mission for Electric Mobility seeks to mitigate the adverse impact of economic development, by completely switching over to electric vehicles by 2030. Another major source of environmental pollution is nuclear power generation.
  • Nuclear plants create 50 per cent more thermal pollution than fossil fuel plants.
  • The challenge India faces now is to improve energy access to modern energy at affordable price in a sustainable and responsible manner without sacrificing economic growth and social development to meet the aspirations of its burgeoning population.

Chapter 4: Financing Renewables in India

For India, the success of the renewable energy sector will be crucial to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement and its transition towards a sustainable future.

  • In its NDCs, India has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 33 to 35% of 2005 levels, to achieving 40% of its installed electric power capacity from non- fossil sources by 2030.
  • Simultaneously, India has set an ambitious domestic target of 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022.
  • The National Electricity Plan 2018 reaffirms further expansion to 275 GW by 2027.
  • Undoubtedly, this is significant departure from business as usual and would entail a new paradigm with support mechanisms, facilitative policies and access to new technologies and investment.
  • As part of national efforts, India has embarked on an intensive renewable energy programme that covers a basket of applications including grid power, off-grid power, modem cooking energy, thermal application in industry and many more.
  • Over the period, renewable energy has emerged as a true multi-benefit system, combining ecological necessities wWith domestic priorities and economic opportunities.
  • It addresses the complex challenges of energy security, energy access, demand and domestic job creation.
  • India is well on the way to realise the ambitious target Of 175 GW by 2022.
  • The policy landscape for renewable energy deployment is ever evolving in response to felt needs.
  • The renewable energy projects are mostly being implemented in the private sector.

The steps taken by the government to support the renewable energy sector:

  • Fiscal and promotional incentives, such as capital subsidy, guidelines for transparent bidding process
  • Waiver of Inter State Transmission System (ISTS) charges and losses
  • Viability Gap Funding (VGF)
  • Standards for deployment of renewables systems and devices
  • Permitting Foreign Direct Investment up to 100% under the automatic route.
  • By the year 2022, the renewable power share in the overall electric installed capacity is expected to reach 37%, if large hydro is included, the share of non-fossil fuel electric installed capacity in the mix would be around 48%.
  • Over the period India has a favourable investment destination for renewables.
  • A variety of investors finance renewable energy projects in India, including institutions, banks and registered Institutional investors are either state-owned, or bilateral and multilateral institutions.
  • Development Banks, like Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), continue to represent a key source of funds for renewables, particularly in project finance.
  • The very liberal foreign investment policy allows foreign investors to enter into joint ventures with an Indian partner for financial and/or technical collaboration and for setting up of renewable energy- based power generation projects.
  • The Indian renewable energy sector received approximately US $3.2 billion in the form of

Financial assistance in the form of low-interest rate, long-term loans and loan guarantees are globally accepted means to address the high up-front capital costs of renewables. In this context, arranging institutional finance for increased renewables deployment would require concerted efforts. Gearing up the banking sector, exploring international funding, and developing a suitable mechanism for risk mitigation or sharing by addressing both technical and financial bottlenecks is a challenge.

The major areas for action are:

  1. First, pension or sovereign funds are potent sources for patient capital for renewables.
    • Green bond issuance has surpassed US $120 billion.
    • Even a small portion of proceeds from these funds could easily meet the investment required for renewables over a decade, assuring a constant and low risk yield investments are also growing, albeit slowly.
    • From the year 2017 onwards some of the wind companies have been successful in raising funds to expand their operations.
    • IREDA have raised US $300 million through the issuance of Green Masala Bonds. The finance landscape for the energy sector is undergoing significant changes. With renewables, in many situations out competing other energy technologies, the financial markets have started repositioning themselves for a fundamental shift towards renewable that simultaneously makes our planet green.
    • In 2014, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) introduced Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs). The feedback from industry suggests that due to the current limitation of 49 per cent cap on leverage, InvITs are unable to offer adequate returns in comparison to alternative investment avenues with similar assets.
  2. Second, reducing cost of the foreign debt by reducing the currency hedging cost has potential to mobilize foreign capital and spur investment by reducing the cost of the capital. This would reduce the delivered cost of renewables and make them more competitive.
  3. Third, robust Payment Security Mechanism (PSM) will also contribute to de-risking the investment.
    • Successive studies have confirmed that one of the most important risks to the Indian renewable sector is the counterparty credit risk, associated with the risk of state-owned utilities delaying or defaulting on their contractual payments to power producers.
    • The timeliness and reliability of payments for power purchase by state distribution companies remains a persistent risk for investments.
    • The National Solar Mission has PSM for ensuring payment to the developers in case the distribution company falters in payment.
    • Putting in place a well-structured PSM helps in lowering the Off- takers risk and increasing investment attractiveness.
  4. Fourth, absence of dedicated ecosystem that looks at the financing needs of the renewables in most of the bilateral and multilateral financing institutions.
    • In furtherance to the policy of building financial frameworks for sustainable energy the banks may consider to earmark a certain percentage of their loan portfolio for renewables. This will be a critical factor for unlocking significantly scaled-up investment in renewables.


Given right instruments put in place, there is no dearth of funds for renewables investment. India has put in place several progressive policies, both at federal and state level. However, financing challenges are bound to continue given the ambitious targets and requirement of patient capital. India has rightly been exploring a combination or short and long-term policy solutions. New ways of financing renewables including through credit and risk guarantees, innovative currency hedging facilities, government bonds etc would help in attracting additional capital, lowering the cost of debt, and also ensuring that India achieves its renewable energy targets.


E-waste Management


  • Electronic waste (e-waste) comprises waste electronics/electrical goods that are not fit for their originally intended use or have reached their end of life.
  • This may include items such as mobile phones, computers, monitors, calculators, CDs, printers, scanners, copiers, battery cells, Radio, TVs, medical apparatus and electronic components besides white goods such as refrigerators and air-conditioners.
  • These gadgets and equipment contain hazardous constituents, although e-waste itself is not harmful.
  • E-waste contains valuable materials such as copper, silver, gold and platinum which could be processed for their recovery when such wastes are dismantled and processed, since it is only at this stage that they pose hazard to health and environment.
  • Electronics and electrical equipment seem efficient and environmentally-friendly, but there are hidden dangers associated with them once these become e-waste.
  • The harmful materials contained in electronic products, and replacing outdated units due to technological updation pose a real danger to human health if electronic products are not properly processed prior to disposal.
  • Heavy metals such as lead, barium and cadmium contained in some electronic and electrical gadgets can be very harmful to health if they enter the water system.
  • These materials can cause damage to the human nervous and respiratory systems.


  • India is among the world’s largest consumers of mobile phones.
  • With more than I .5 million tonnes of e-waste generated annually, most consumers are still unaware of how to dispose of their e-waste.
  • Recycling of e-waste was almost entirely left to the informal sector, which does not have adequate means to handle either the increasing quantities or certain processes, leading to intolerable risk for human health and the environment.

E-waste management:

  • The law on e-waste management was first passed in 2011.
  • It was based on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which put the onus on the producer for the management of the final stages of the life of its product, in an eco-friendly way’ by creating certain norms in tandem with State Pollution Control Boards.
  • It has been made mandatory for leading multinational companies to set up electronics manufacturing facilities and R&D centres for hardware and software.
  • E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, enacted since 2017, had further strengthened the existing rules.
  • The present rule has strengthened the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is the global best practice to ensure the take-back of the end-of-life products.
  • A new arrangement entitled, ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’ (PRO) has been introduced to strengthen EPR further.
  • Further, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment Placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of law on Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and the cost for sample and testing shall be borne by the producer.
  • The random sampling shall be as per the guidelines of CPCB.
  • If the product does not comply with RoHS provisions, the producers shall take corrective measures to bring the product into compliance, and withdraw or recall the product from the market, within a reasonable period as per the guidelines of CPCB.

Chapter 5: Steps to achieve India’s Solar Potential

The needs of India’s burgeoning population are rising. However, the status quo of resources might not be adequate to fulfill the growing demands of a fast-paced economy. Country’s per capita consumption of electricity stands at a meagre 1.100 kWh/year which is much lower compared to other large economies like the US and China. Demand for power is set to rise further with increasing rates of urbanization and industrial growth. Plugging this demand-supply gap by augmenting capacity in the power sector is a key priority for the policy makers. Unfortunately, our traditional sources of energy generation are already nearing their saturation levels. India must also honour its global commitments on curbing greenhouse gas emissions as per the Paris.

Here are five areas that need more attention and focus, to take the Indian solar power industry to the next level:

  1. Technology:
    • While solar is becoming an important contributor to energy needs in India, there is still a huge gap to be filled.
    • Rooftop solar solutions for example, can add large capacities but certainly need a push from respective slate governments.
    • Newer advancements in the field like floating solar can play a vital role in increasing capacity
    • Considering the huge potential in the sector, the government and private entities must emphasise and support R&D and adoption of latest technology and innovations in this area.
  2. Policy Push:
  • Solar power tariffs have decreased over the past few years making solar energy more accessible to the common man due to technological advancements and policy push.
  • However, tariff margins discovered in reverse auctions have been pushed lower in recent years leading to a squeeze in profit margins.
  • Considering that tariffs are now significantly lower than other sources of energy, we need to move towards healthier tariffs to help private players work with sustainable business models and attract a higher capital inflow.
  • This will eventually lead to augmented supply and further lowering of prices for the common people.
  • Respective state governments should also accentuate the of solar power generation with regular capacity addition.
  1. Discom Health
    • Despite the government’s initiatives to reinvigorate power distributing companies, the health of state discoms has not improved much over years. T
    • hese companies form a crucial link in the of energy an impact on the over-all process.
    • Hence, maintaining discoms in good shape forms an extremely important link on the to 2022.
    • The healthier the distribution the more power they power supply.
    • Steps should be taken to strengthen the discoms such that they are able to support higher tariffs, RPOs
  2. Financial Reforms:
    • Reforms in banking systems will go a long way in assisting the renewable energy sector.
    • As oOf now, sectoral categorisation of banks sees renewables as part of the power sector, due to which, for most banks, the loan limit is majorly consumed by thermal plants and only a small fraction of the fund remains available for the renewables sector.
    • Reality is that the renewables sector has clocked exponential growth and contributed handsome revenues to the exchequer.
    • Considering the above, renewables should be categorised as a separate sector.
    • This will help widen access to funds and simplify the process of loan procurement for companies.
    • The government can also consider according priority sector status to renewables, given its strategic importance.
    • Diverse bond markets will help in securing affordable finance for clean energy projects in the future.
    • A healthy banking system will be able to provide more funds at a competitive cost to propel the renewables.
  3. Enabling Ease of Doing Business:
    • The government’s pursuit of reforms has created a more conducive environment for investments in India, reflected in our steady rise in Ease of Doing Business rankings over the past couple of years.
    • However, faster processing of approvals for project implementation across the value chain, especially conversion approvals of land in different states would be of great help to the renewables sector.
    • The government should work on building more robust transmission systems. This will not only increase investor faith in the overall process but will also ensure no MW loss during power distribution.

Achieving the ambitious target of 100 GW solar power capacity by 2022 need an effort from all the stakeholders, including the central and state governments’ financers, discoms and private players. The government has a key role to play — not only by providing the required policy support but also acting as a central coordinator— guiding and synchronising efforts from various stakeholders to catalyze the solar industry’s growth.

Chapter 6: Geo-Thermal and Ocean Energy Technologies

Keeping in view the commitment for a healthy planet and as per India’s Nationally Determined Contributions made in the Paris Accord on Climate Change, India has made a pledge that by 2030, 40 per cent of installed power generation capacity shall be based on clean energy sources. Accordingly, an ambitious target has been set of installing 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022. This includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio- power and 5 GW from small hydro power. The possibility of venturing into new emerging renewable energy technologies, such as Floating Solar, Offshore wind, solar wind hybrid, energy storage, etc is also being explored. However, renewable energy technologies such as geo-thermal and ocean energy still remain at a nascent stage in India.

Ocean Energy:

  • Oceans occupy more than 70 per cent of Earth’s surface and are an inexhaustible source of renewable energy.
  • Ocean energy is the energy harnessed from ocean waves, tidal range (rise and fall) & tidal streams, temperature gradients and salinity gradients.
  • Only few commercial ocean energy power plants have been commissioned till date.
  • Apart from tidal barrage plants which use established tidal turbine technology, other ocean energy technologies are still largely in pre-commercial development stages.

Indian Scenario:

  • As per study conducted by IIT Madras, Theoretical Potential for tidal Energy in India is 12500 MW.
  • Promising locations are Gulf of Khambhat & Gulf of Kutch (GJ), Sunderbans (WB), Western Ghats etc.
  • Theoretical Potential for Wave Energy in India is 41,000 M W, Promising locations are Western Coast of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Kanyakumari, Southern tip of India. etc.
  • However, resource survey at target locations i.e. Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, etc may be undertaken to assess/ validate actual potential.
  • These technologies are more Suitable for Off grid electricity generation in remote coastal areas’ mangroves/ islands where Tariff is very high @ Rs 25/Kwh for diesel based captive power generation.


  1. Tidal Energy:
  • The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational pull of the moon.
  • The difference in water level from low tide and high tide is potential energy that can be harnessed.
  • Similar to hydropower generated from dams, tidal water captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a turbine during Iow tide.
  • The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction that results in high power tariff.
  • In order to harness power from the tidal energy, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide.
  1. Wave Energy:
    • Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor by the force generated by the ocean waves.
    • Many different techniques for converting wave energy to electric power have been developed.
    • Wave conversion devices floats on the surface have joints hinged together that moves with the waves.
    • The kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and generates electric power.
    • Moored wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves moving up and down.
    • This wave motion drives a turbine.
  2. Current Energy:
    • Ocean current is ocean water moving in one direction.
    • This ocean current is also known as the Gulf Stream.
    • Kinetic energy can be captured from the Gulf Stream and other tidal currents with submerged turbines that are very similar in appearance to miniature wind turbines.
    • Similar to wind turbines, the movement of the marine current moves the rotor blades to generate electric power.
  3. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC):
  • Ocean thermal energy conversion, or OTEC, uses ocean temperature differences from the surface to depths lower than 1,000 meters to harness energy.
  • A temperature difference of even 20 degree Celsius can yield energy efficiently.
  • Research focuses are on two types of OTEC technologies to extract thermal energy and convert it to electric power: closed cycle and open cycle.
  • In the closed cycle method a working fluid such as ammonia is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine. The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapor back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger.
  • In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.

Future Road Map:

  • Most Ocean Technologies are still at Pre R&D/commercialization stage worldwide.
  • Therefore, technologies need validation from leading research institutes before demonstration.
  • It is necessary to plan to develop Demonstration projects initially for each ocean energy technology at feasible sites before going for commercial plants as also to undertake resource assessment with support from leading countries as ocean energy expert.

Geothermal Energy:

  • Geothermal Energy is a mature renewable energy technology that has a potential to provide clean and reliable energy for power generation and direct heating/cooling.
  • Geothermal Energy can be utilized for both electric power production and direct heat applications including Ground Source Heat pump (GSHP) for space or district heating, generating hot water for domestic/ industrial use, running cold storages and greenhouse, horticulture, etc.
  • However, Geothermal Energy has experienced modest growth worldwide in recent times as compared to other RE sources especially wind or solar due to its site specific nature, risk/uncertainty involved with resource exploration and high capital cost.

Indian Scenario:

  • The promising geothermal sites for electric power generation are Puga Valley & Chummathang in Jammu & Kashmir, Cambay in Gujarat, Tattapani in Chattisgarh, Khammam in Telangana & Ratnagiri in Maharasthra.
  • The promising geothermal sites for direct heat use applications are Rajgir in Bihar, Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh, Surajkund in Jharkhand, Tapoban in Uttarakhand & Sohana region in Haryana.

Power Generation:

  • Hot water and steam from deep underground can be piped up through underground wells and used to generate electricity in a power plant.
  • There are three types of geothermal power plants:
  1. Dry Steam Plants which use geothermal steam directly.

2. Flash Steam Plants which use high pressure hot water to produce Steam.

3. Binary Cycle Plants which use moderate-temperature water (107 to 182 degree Celsius) from the geothermal reservoir.

Future Roadmap:

  • Industry led, applied R&D proposals to harness geothermal energy under Research, Design, Development & Demonstration (RDD&D) policy are necessary for this renewable energy source to become operational.
  • Plans should be made to develop Demonstration projects initially each for geothermal electricity production & direct heat use applications.
  • PSUs may undertake resource assessment with support from leading countries as geothermal expert.
  • Projects for space cooling and industrial process heating using GSHP technology may be supported through subsidy, preferential tariff from power companies as technology is energy/ water efficient.


Chapter 7: Biogas – A Story Untold

India generates about 1,45,128 tonne of waste daily (or around 53 million tonne annually) and on an average 46 cent of it is processed daily, according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). For a country like India that is heavily dependent on expensive imported oil and gas imports as well as coal for meeting its energy requirements, it definitely makes more sense to look at alternative resources. And this is where the Waste to Energy programme propagated to recover energy in the form of Biogas/ BioCNG/ Power from urban, industrial and agricultural wastes gains importance. Besides, it also promotes off-grid connectivity.


  • While a programme of this kind requires government support, the challenge is to ensure that various Ministries work in synergy.
  • Another, challenge for Waste to Energy management is, how various schemes can become revenue generator for small players. But, there is a hitch here—shifting social dynamics.
  • Maintaining cattle is becoming difficult for an individual. Therefore, individual biogas plants are seeing a decline.
  • However, scope for larger private plants is growing with more private diaries coming into business.
  • There are still many challenges remaining to promote this programme as it also means undoing a social mind-set.
  • It also needs to be ensured that Waste to Energy plants themselves do not violate any environmental norms particularly for municipal solid wastes.
  • Marketing of the concept is another uphill task which requires governmental involvement as well as financial support is needed in setting up a plant, which is not cheap.

Compressed Biogas (CBG):

  • According to experts, CBG has the potential to boost availability of more affordable transport fuels, better use of agricultural residue, and cattle dung, as well as to provide an additional revenue source to farmers.
  • Called Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT), it is expected to benefit vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • Besides, CBG will also help bring down dependency on crude oil and gas imports.
  • The potential for CBG production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes annually. CBG can be produced from various bio-mass/waste sources, including agricultural residue, sugarcane press mud, distillery spent wash, cattle dung and sewage treatment plant waste.
  • The other waste streams, like rotten potatoes from cold storages, rotten vegetables, dairy plants, chicken/ poultry litter, food waste, horticulture waste, forestry residues and treated organic waste from industrial effluent treatment plants (ETPs) can be used to generate biogas.
  • In fact, CBG is similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential and can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.
  • Given the abundance of biomass in the country, CBG has the potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.
  • Industry experts say that if the country exploits this, no surprises then that gas imports will come down to zero one day.
  • There are multiple benefits of converting agricultural residue and cattle dung into CBG on a commercial scale:
    • Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution
    • Additional revenue source for farmers
    • Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment
    • Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals
    • Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil
    • Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations.
  • But, a lot depends on pricing as India is a price sensitive market.
  • The Working Group on Biofuels is in the process of finalising a pan-India pricing model for CBG.
  • Besides, according to the proposal, the entrepreneurs would be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants, including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide, etc. to enhance returns on investment.

While solar and wind have developed a glam quotient, they can only be intermittent to coal or other fossil fuel. Biogas could work in the favour of India. However, there are challenges like CBG quality and marketing. Biogas cannot succeed without governmental support as it is still at a very nascent stage. But once it takes off, the government can play the role of a facilitator and allow private sector to run the business.

Chapter 8: Driving a Green Transition for the Environment

Electric mobility is the definitive game-changer for the transport sector the world over, with global penetration growing at close to 75% per year.

India has its own vision for electric mobility:

  • As a member of the eight-country Clean Energy Ministerial (a high-level forum to promote clean energy policies and programmes) India aims to achieve a 30% electric vehicle penetration by 2030.
  • This goal is inspired not only by the promise of curtailing its crude oil dependence, but also for environmental sustainability.

Going electric for the environment:

A fossil-fueI powered mobility ecosystem, is environmentally unsustainable, due to a variety of reasons.

  • Foremost are the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the form of tail-pipe exhaust.
  • Internal combustion engines (ICES) are among the leading sources of air pollution across the world, and India regularly features in the list of countries which have the world’s highest rates of vehicular emissions, and correspondingly, air pollutions-related deaths.
  • According to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), vehicular emission is one of the major sources of India’s urban pollution.
  • By 2030, India is anticipated to have an estimated 400 million customers’ in need of mobility.
  • Coal-based thermal power generation today meets 70% of India’s power needs.
  • Coal is also the bane of India’s energy value chain from an environmental point of view, along with pushing out airborne emissions of poisonous chemicals like carbon dioxide, combustion of coal for thermal generation also releases sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, all poisonous particulate matters into the air.
  • According to a study, India’s coal-fired power plants are the most dangerous when it comes to their health impact.
  • For one of the largest auto markets in the world, fossil-fuel-led mobility will imperil environmental sustainability.

Environmental benefits of electric vehicles:

  • They have zero tail-pipe emissions, simply because they do not use an internal combustion engine (ICE).
  • According to a NITI Aayog report, India can reduce 64% of the energy demand for road transport and 37% of carbon emissions by 2030, by pursuing a shared, electric and connected mobility future.

 What about emissions from an electric mobility future?

  • It could be argued that EVs are simply transferring the burden of fossil fuel, if instead of petrol and diesel, the source or electric power generation is coal.
  • EVs still have lower GHG emission than a conventional internal combustion engine powered vehicle.
  • EVs convert about 59%— 62% of the grid energy to power at the wheels. In comparison, ICE vehicles convert a fifth of petrol’s energy to drive power.
  • Even with coal-powered generation powering them, EVs are still going to be more efficient (with regard to emission) than when powered by conventional fuel.
  • India is fast shaping its transition to a renewable-led energy future. The nation is very much on track to meet and possibly outperform its target of GW of solar energy capacity by 2022.

How is India enabling the electric transition?

  • Some measures required to bring about the mobility transition are:
  • Strategies like demand and supply side-incentives
  • Promotion of R&D in battery technology and management systems
  • Promotion of charging infrastructures
  • This transition is anticipated to provide a thrust to investments in the EV eco- system.
  • The increasing public consciousness on the adverse health effects of air pollution combined with robust policy framework for EVs has translated to the emergence of a fast- growing private sector ecosystem.
  • India’s e-mobility sector is also taking cues, insights, and knowledge from global counterparts, and adapting best practices to an Indian context.
  • Considering both its environmental and economic benefits, the goal of 30% fleet electrification will necessitate even more collaboration of service providers across automobile, technology, energy, and allied fields.

Chapter 9: India’s Conundrum: Aligning Emission Mitigation with Development

India’s HDI is 0.64, placing it at a rank of 130 among 189 countries. Despite being one of the fastest growing economies of the world, nearly 12 % of the households still do not have access to basic services like clean water and 52% of the households live in mud or semi- concrete houses. Even in 2011/12, 52 % households used firewood for cooking.

  • India’s per capita electricity consumption was about a fourth of the global average while its per capita energy consumption was around one-fifth of the global average in 2015/16.
    • This reflects a combination of the prevailing energy access and affordability issues.
    • Accordingly, India still needs to significantly improve its development infrastructure towards achieving higher levels of well-being for its population.
  • Historically, the developed countries accounted for the larger pan of the global emissions as they industrialised and developed their infrastructure earlier.
  • In recent years, as economic growth picked up in the non-OECD countries, the share of OECD and non-OECD emissions has reversed.
  • India and China accounted for 55% of non-OECD emissions with China contributing to 44 per cent and India accounting for 11 per cent in 2017.
  • India’s GHG emissions (excluding land use change and forestry) increased by nearly 115 per cent between 1994 and 2014,

Need for emission mitigation:

The world would require rapid and far reaching transitions at the global as well as national levels. Therefore it is clear that while rapid and inclusive development is clearly an overriding priority for the country on one hand, the global responsibility and pressure on India to grow sustainably is also significant as the urgency to address climate change issues is assuming increasing importance globally.

What makes India’s current energy transition unique?

  • Energy transition is by no means a new concept for India — the country has had a history of transitioning to different energy choices based on the stage of the country’s development and main national priorities.
  • In the initial years of national planning following India’s independence, the primary focus was on socio-economic development and energy policies focused on supply adequacy and infrastructure development.
  • In the years that followed, the energy sector witnessed a gradual transition away from traditional use of biomass to modern energy forms like coal and petroleum products.
  • The 5-Year Plans shifted their focus from issues ofe nergy access in the 1970s, to that of national energy security in the 1980s and modernization of energy infrastructure in the 1990s.
  • During these years, the energy sector witnessed a transition towards higher levels of electrification and an increase in the share of thermal power generation.
  • Increasingly, the understanding of energy security also evolved to include aspects of access, affordability and efficiency rather than being seen in a narrow sense of only national self-sufficiency.
  • India’s Eleventh (2007-2012) and Twelfth Plan (2012- 17) presented the broad vision and aspiration of a faster, sustainable, and more inclusive growth and priority to environmental sustainability.
  • The key elements of India’s current transition story need to relate with enhancing efficiency in the energy system to dampen the growth in future energy requirements and to simultaneously transition towards cleaner energy forms.
  • Accordingly, we are now witnessing the era of the transition to new renewables like solar and wind energy.

Given the global urgency to tackle climate change, following the Paris Agreement in 2015, India had set out its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets for 2030, which broadly have three main targets,

  1. Reducing the emissions intensity Of its GDP by 33 per cent-35 per cent from 2005 levels.
  2. Achieving 40 per cent cumulative electric power installed capacity based on non-fossil energy sources, contingent on international transfer of technology and low cost finance.
  3. Creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5 – 3.0 billion tonnes of CO equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.
  • Moving towards renewables such as solar power is a “win-win” option for India given the abundance of sunshine in the country and the rapid development of solar technologies that has resulted in a rapid plummeting down of renewable based electricity costs in recent times.
  • The cost of renewables (especially solar) has decreased rapidly, making it fairly competitive with fossil based generation.
  • It is expected that renewable electricity (with storage) would attain large scale commercial viability by 2030, thereby overcoming the intermittency challenges (for wind and solar power).
  • Moreover, it is clear that as the electricity sector gets increasingly decarbonised, it could augur well for India to move towards electrification of end-uses such as cooking and mobility.
  • Leapfrogging to electric cook-stoves judiciously in some cases could bring in greater benefits in terms of moving to a low carbon path rather than first making a transition towards LPG/ PNG in an effort to move to cleaner modern fuels.
  • Similarly, if the country could make a quick move to electric vehicles directly, it could also simultaneously address the issue of local air pollution in cities.


  • Sustainable energy options often entail high upfront capital costs for setting up the associated infrastructure. Therefore, the financial requirements of these alternatives need to be carefully considered especially if they need to be adopted at larger scales.
  • It is important that the country does not compromise on development related spending while proceeding towards a low carbon pathway. Alternative and additional sources of finance should be tapped to ensure that both objectives can be pursued synergistically.
  • Accelerating the pace of electrification of vehicles could prove to be detrimental unless the power generation sector is already highly decarbonised.
  • While technological choices and solutions exist for India’s energy transition, there also exist several challenges that would need to be addressed via suitable policies and measures, keeping India’s socio- economic context in mind.
  • Adoption of some efficiency measures may require behavioural changes apart from purely technological solutions, and therefore necessitate ways to motivate consumers to shift to such options through innovative business models and strategies.
  • The adoption of renewables at larger scales would also need to be complemented with grid improvements to handle higher share of intermittent/variable power.
  • Perhaps the biggest challenge to adoption of energy efficient technologies in the industry sector comes from the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
    • These being small, un-mechanised and having limited dependence on electricity offer limited avenues of efficiency improvement.
    • They also lack capital and motivation to shift to better processes and technologies because unlike the big industries, they lack the advantage of scale.
  • In other cases, such as in the transport sector, there may still be technological gaps in terms of availability of economically viable alternatives.
  • While solutions have emerged at the pilot scale to find substitutes for Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) used in the aviation sector, and to fuels used in the shipping and heavy road-freight transportation, these solutions are still not readily available for large scale transitions.


On the one hand, India’s energy transition story needs to address the technology development perspective which calls for enhanced and accelerated efforts to increase the uptake of clean and efficient energy substitutes, processes, and end-use equipment, such that the country does not lock itself into large stocks of inefficient equipment and infrastructure. At the same time, India needs to address the social development perspective wherein it needs to enable a higher standard of living for all the citizens by growing at a relatively higher pace and in a more inclusive way, ensure access to clean and modern energy forms in a reliable and affordable manner for all sections of society, doubling of farm incomes, creation of job opportunities through strengthening of industrial base etc. India must undertake an integrated and holistic approach to use innovative business models and dynamic decision making to address the multiple challenges at the policy and institutional levels or those posed by socio-cultural and market barriers, in order to successfully convert the challenges into opportunities for inclusive growth.

Chapter 10: Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities

With global temperature increase likely to overshoot the “well below 2 degree Celsius” goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the events of the past few years portends a huge and expanding danger.

  • Though nobody is a stranger to the adverse impacts of a warming planet, the IPCC special report had a clear message for resource poor and vulnerable countries such as India that it would be among those most adversely affected.
  • As a relatively poor country that is vulnerable to climate change, India will be among those most adversely affected if warming exceeds 1.5 degree celsius.
  • It is now clearer than ever before that many of the adverse impacts of climate change are unavoidable.
  • South Asia, particularly India is a hotspot, and will exposed to multiple and overlapping hazards as the planet warms.
  • The impactsis considerable-intensified droughts and water stress, heatwaves, habitat degradation, and reduced crop yields.
  • Rising temperature and the variations in rainfall will impact water supplies. The overall impact of climate change on water resources will manifest as a rise in floods and droughts.
  • The intensity and area affected by floods, river floods due to snowmelt and coastal flooding due to sea level rise-will increase considerably.

Acting On Climate Change:

  • India has been stepping up on its efforts to slow down the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to impacts that are already being experienced.
  • In 2008, India launched the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • Eight missions: energy, energy efficiency, forestry, sustainable habitat, water, agriculture, Himalayan ecosystem, and developing strategic knowledge for climate change—form the core of the multi-pronged, long- term, and integrated strategies for addressing climate change.
  • Besides a national level plan, 32 states and union territories have prepared state level climate action plans.
  • These plans comprising programmes in sectors such as health, industries, disaster management, tourism, and coastal are focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change while addressing broader development goals.
  • The progress however has been uneven. Most of the efforts have been focused on the energy-related missions. Though efforts are underway to align policies and programmes to goals set out in the national action plans. Financial and technological constraints have hampered the effective implementation of the state plans.
  • As part of its pledges under the Paris Agreement, India has committed to increase the share of non-fossil fuel power generating capacity to 40 per cent of its installed total power capacity by 2030.
  • India has also committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 level.
  • Earlier in 2010, India took a voluntary pledge to reduce the emission intensity Of its GDP by 20- 25 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels.
  • Between 2005 and 2014, India has reduced the emission intensity of the economy by 21 per Cent.
  • An analysis by Australia-based think tank Institute for Energy’ Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) finds that India is likely to achieve its energy capacity and emissions intensity goals by 2020, that is a decade before the deadline Of 2030 it set in its NDC.

What Next?

  • Material resources and energy are the drivers of economic progress.
  • Growing the economy and bridging the development gap will inevitably require increasing India’s consumption of material resources and energy.
  • A recent assessment, Global Resources Outlook 2019, by the International Resource Panel, a United Nations Environment-sponsored science body, reports that the global extraction and processing of material resources— biomass, fossil fuels, metals, and non-
  • metallic minerals—contributes to more than 50 per cent or the greenhouse gas emissions. As a lower-middle income country, India’s material footprint is smaller than its high and upper-middle income counterparts.
  • However, it is already experiencing the adverse impacts of a materials- intensive growth model: polluted air, water stress and climate change- induced weather events.
  • Clearly, as India moves ahead urbanising at a rapid pace, building the nearly 70 per cent of its yet unbuilt infrastructure, increasmg its manufacturing base, creating jobs in the non-agricultural and mining sectors, will need to transition to production and consumption systems.
  • It is clear that India cannot afford to adopt the growth models that have underpinned the rise of developed industrialised economies developing economies such as China.

Climate change will require economy-wide transformation. India will need to make dramatic changes across the spectrum-energy, transportation, urban and agriculture systems. It will require investing in human capital, innovation and research and development. This is the moment for India to invest in re-skilling the 500,000 people who depend directly and indirectly on coal mining as the energy mix changes. It must invest in innovations that minimise the social cost of a climate-induced transformation of the economy. It is about creating more sustainable economies. And for a country such as India, filling the backlog of development in a climate constrained world poses a real and immediate Challenge. The path forward must focus on creating wealth that will provide the resilience to deal with the real and physical challenges that a warming earth presents, and to sustain the economic growth that will ensure a better life for all its people. For India, it has to be about creating the capacities to seize the opportunities that the climate crisis presents.

Chapter 11: Forests and Water Conservation and Sustainable Development

Most of the Earth’s ecosystems have significantly been impaired during the past few decades due to unequal distribution and a sharp rise in global freshwater demand driven by industry. Most of the world’s large river-floodplain ecosystems have been altered by human activities. Though nearly 70 per cent of the world is covered by water, only about 2.5 per cent of it is fresh water and less than 1 per cent of the freshwater is actually accessible in lakes and rivers. Nearly 70 per cent of the freshwater used by humans goes to agriculture.

Water Crisis:

  • Water scarcity is the most critical issue of our lifetime and future generations.
  • Multiple factors have influenced the ecological functioning of the world’s major water bodies and in turn destroyed the various freshwater Systems.
  • Consequently, about two billion of world’s population is going through water stress which is expected to increase with time.
  • Issues pertaining to water accessibility, quantity and quality are major global concerns.
  • India is no exception as it is home to one-sixth of the world’s total population but has only 4 cent of the water resources sustaining the economy.
  • Values of per capita surface water availability have continuously declined and in the near future the country is expected to become water stressed.

Forests, Water and People – Interconnections:

  • Forests, water and people are closely interconnected.
  • It is scientifically recognised that both quantity and quality of water are strongly influenced by forests.
  • The health of forests and its composition has direct impact on water availability as well as quality which shows the importance of the relationship between forests and water.
  • Forested tracts not only constitute catchment of rivers and their tributaries but often they harbour their headwaters.
  • Water, wetlands and forests are constantly interacting to produce healthy and productive ecosystems.
  • Forests absorb rainfall and snow melt and also slow runoff, reduce soil erosion, improve water infiltration rates, and recharge aquifers, thus exhibiting ‘sponge effect’.
  • At the same time forests growing along the streams filter pollutants from entering the water.
  • Forests therefore undoubtedly play a critical role in the well-being and proper functioning of the hydrological cycle.
  • Since forests are storehouses of biodiversity, these play an equally important role in global cycling of carbon, oxygen and other gases influencing the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Forest cover is one of the many factors which affect climate at the global as well as regional and also local levels.
  • Forests play a significant role in climate mitigation.
  • Therefore, the relationship between forests and water is a critical issue that requires highest priority attention at all levels.

Forests—Conservation Values:

  • Forests are seen as source of timber, edible products, fuel wood, medicinal plants and habitat to wildlife.
  • As catchment for rivers, they predominantly affect the volume, quality and timing of water flow as well as rates of soil formation or erosion.
  • Forests have been a source of inspiration and are increasingly used for tourism and recreation.
  • Forests not only provide multiple services but they are perceived to have multiple values which are being recognized by different stakeholders.
  • Forested catchments supply a high proportion of water for domestic, agricultural, industrial and ecological needs in both upstream and downstream areas.
  • The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.

Tapping Forest Catchment Potential:

A few of the country’s pioneer efforts to tap forest catchment potential to augment water supplies to major cities and drier regions are highlighted as below:

  • Construction of Mullaperiyar dam on Periyar River in Kerala so as to divert Water eastwards to the arid rain shadow region of Madurai under the then Madras Presidency and creating a large lake
  • Forests surrounding the lake and the entire lake area now constitute the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTH).
  • Protection to high altitude Oligotrophic lake, Marsar and diverse forests in the mid slopes constituting the catchment of Dagwan River so as to ensure clean water supply for the city of Srinagar and J&K.
  • The water supply to Shimla town is from the catchment forests.
  • The forest was declared a protected Forest and finally notified as Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • Likewise, the water distribution system in Mumbai metropolis is more than 150 years old. Water is brought into the metropolis from various reservoirs.
  • Tansa dam on Tansa River in Thane district was opened in 1892. Before Independence, Tansa was the major source and major water pipelines were laid to supply water to Mumbai. Tansa dam is located within Tansa Sanctuary and forested catchment serves as sponge and continues to provide water recharge even after the withdrawal of monsoon.

Forests Management and Water Conservation:

 Forests and varied natural water resources (surface water and ground water) are complex and dynamic in nature. In India, there has been a long history of management of forests as well as adequately documented traditional systems of water harvesting and water use, practiced in drylands.

  • Management of Indian forests commenced way back in 1860s with the establishment of forest reserves, law enforcement and initiation of silviculture-based forest working.
  • State Forest Department(s) and trained manpower were created.
  • SFDs are the custodian of forests and wildlife.
  • The Constitution of India-Article 48A provides a clear mandate Of the State to protect the environment.
  • Forests and the protection of wildlife fall within the Concurrent List.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 is the umbrella legislation for the protection of all aspects of the environment.
  • The issue of pollution and water quality falls primarily under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • The Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 are the primary legislations governing forests; while the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002 are significant from the perspective of biodiversity, intellectual property right, and access and benefit sharing.

Paradigm Shift:

  • India has established an impressive network of protected areas and presently PAS (Protected Areas) represent nearly 5 per cent area Of the country.
  • Prominent country- Wide activities carried out under various programmes’ have contributed immensely.
  • Several national level institutions dealing with forestry/ wildlife research, education and training, have been established for capacity building.

Conservation of Water Resources:

  • In the federal scheme of the Indian Constitution, regulation and development of inter-state rivers falls within the legislative competence of the Union Government.
  • States have the legislative competence over water supplies, irrigation and canals, drainage and water storage.
  • States also have the power over issues relating to land and land use.
  • Post-independence the country has realised the priority need for developing water resources, particularly in drier zones for expansion of agriculture and realization of national goals of self-sufficiency in food production.
  • A large number of irrigation projects were implemented.
  • As a result, numerous multipurpose dams, reservoirs, canals and ponds came into existence. Water supply was also enhanced tapping ground water resources.
  • Over past decades, country has gained considerable experience in execution of integrated watershed management programmes (IWMP).

Contribution to the Sustainable Development:

  • Past experiences have amply illustrated that forests provide the cleanest and most stable flows of surface water and groundwater recharge among all land uses.
  • Flow amount, quality and timing can be altered by forest management; flows can increase or decrease depending upon post disturbance successional patterns.
  • These findings appropriately indicate linkages between forests and freshwater ecosystems.
  • Both ecosystems significantly contribute towards UN Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals which reflect complex and interrelated nature of social, economic and ecological well- being parameters.
  • In recent past, India has directed its development pathway to meet its priorities of food, water and energy security, economic growth, disaster resilience and poverty alleviation while maintaining the natural capital and adopt transparent and robust governance along democratic lines.
  • SDGs related to water (SDG 6) and land (SDG 15) explicitly acknowledge the linkages between forests and water.
  • Further, SDG 6 and SDG 15 have strong interconnections with targets of other SDGs and thus, approaches adopted towards ecosystem management, sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation, effective and efficient use of water resources would not only contribute to other SDGs but would ensure sustainable overall development and fulfilment Of global commitments.

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