//Energy Options for India, Some questions : Saraswati Kavula

Energy Options for India, Some questions : Saraswati Kavula

A displaced tribal from Narmada

A displaced tribal from Narmada

“What about all that subsidy, which is doled out to the Nuclear Industry in India, which has spent at least hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees and generated meager 3.1% electricity?”

  • Our governments do not have money to give 200 crores to the RTC to purchase 500 buses, but they have the money to pay 9000 crores to spend on the Metro Rail. They don’t want to spend 400 crores for improving the MMTS, but have 9000 crores to spend on the Metro Rail.
  • The most important question we need to ask ourselves: What has been the paradigm of development that we have been following? We know we are heading for an energy crisis then, why are we increasing and introducing Energy Intensive forms of development”?

Energy Options: Some questions for the Scientific Community and the Economists 

    In a recent lecture at the Institute of Engineers, Hyderabad; by an Imported (from America) Civil Engineer (sponsored by the Nuclear Lobby in America,as mentioned by him – “I am paid 10,000 dollars to conduct these silly lectures), who talked about Nuclear Energy” being the future for India’s energy requirement (He had nothing to do either with Nuclear Energy production or Nuclear Physics); there have been mixed responses.

Chief among them were – whether Nuclear Energy is a safe option, whether it is a renewable resource and most importantly, there was one gentleman who kept saying there is a need for Nuclear Energy in order to protect the farmer from committing suicides due to a shortage of electricity. (His take was that since there was no power, the farmers are unable to irrigate
their lands from their tube wells. That there are many more fundamental reasons with regards to agricultural policies behind farmers deaths is another issue).

Speaking about the safety of Nuclear Plants vis-à-vis Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant in Tamil Nadu and its situation during the Tsunami, the chief designer of Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant spoke about how strong the safety norms were in Kalpakkam and how the safety precautions were better in India than in the USA. He also added that everyday there are at least 10-15 people dying in road accidents in Hyderabad, so the tally is any day better in the Nuclear Industry.

My question to this gentleman and others is: someone dying in a road accident is an accident, caused involuntarily. Knowing fully well, that Nuclear Industry right from Mining, to Processing, Energy Generation, and (worst of all) – the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, that took speed with Indo-US Nuclear agreement; (not to forget the recent incident of  theft of Uranium from the Jadugoda mines, whose final destination one cannot know about); Considering all these factors, with full knowledge that all this can cause death and destruction; if we say, well people die anyways, so why not just NUKE them out – then aren’t we collaborators in MURDER?

Even if it was just ten people or one person who dies because of the Nuclear Establishment, most often, an ignorant villager / miner who knows nothing about Nuclear Science; isn’t it MURDER by the NUCLEAR ESTABLISHMENT? By all those who are professing Nuclear Energy as the option, please think, if you or I have any right to Kill even one human being in the name of
Development, while we, the well healed, the middle class, enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice?

Do we have a right to ask the soldiers of Development (the miners and other such sacrificial goats) to sacrifice their lives for us, us who will not make a small sacrifice like shutting off our TV sets, or our Water Heaters in order to save energy? In the same vein, I want to question all the scientists – “How many of you will send your children to work in the Uranium Mines as Miners? And ask them to take it up as a career option?” The day you do that, you may speak about Nuclear Energy being the option for India or for any other country. The day you and I are willing to live next to a Tailing Pond of a Uranium Mine, we should speak about Nuclear Energy.

Everyone keeps harping about France, France does not mine its Uranium in its own territory – some poor fellows in Africa are paying the price for France’s “Energy Options”. The American Indians became the  sacrificial lambs in the United States’ avarice for a Nuclear Dominance. In this day of “Collateral Damages” I suppose, what I speak seems like archaic bullshit. But before development or anything else, what separate human beings from Animals are a code of ethics and the principles of humane behaviour. I think we need to rethink who we are and where we are going.

The Second Big Question everyone asks is: if we do not use Nuclear Energy, then we will head for an Energy crisis.

I wish to ask first of all, is this Nuclear Energy and everlasting resource? There was something one scientist spoke in a discussion in New Delhi recently, that they are simulating the same reactions which are happening in the SUN, in order to generate Energy. My question to him was, “Why don’t you use the SUN directly, instead of going through this round about way?” His answer, ‘We can use solar energy, we can use a solar cooker, solar heater and solar lamp, but how many of us are doing that”. I asked him, “Are you using a solar cooker?” He replied in the negative.

Coming back to our present lecture, I recounted this incident to the Chief designer of Kalpakkam Nuclear Plant; his answer was “It is too expensive and there is not so much funding!”  My question is, “What about all that subsidy, which is doled out to the Nuclear Industry in India, which has spent at least hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees and generated meager 3.1% electricity?”  My neighbour wants to purchase a solar water heater, but she doesn’t want to buy it because there is no subsidy.

There are numerous ways in which we can generate the money we need, if we have the will…we can abandon the 9000 crore Metro rail project(s) (now they are planning this in every city in India, so you can multiply that 9000 with 10-15 or what ever number of cities they are planning to implement the Metro); and use a cheaper option of Public Transport like a good Bus system or the MMTS trains. Our governments do not have money to give 200 crores to the RTC to purchase 500 buses, but they have the money to pay 9000 crores to spend on the Metro Rail. They don’t want to spend 400 crores for improving the MMTS, but have 9000 crores to spend on the Metro Rail. So, if we can avoid the Metro Rail in all our cities (Delhi being an exception, since there is a Metro already), there will be a lot of money available for renewable energy resources like Solar Energy and Wind Energy.

The most important question we need to ask ourselves: What has been the paradigm of development that we have been following? We know we are heading for an energy crisis then, why are we increasing and introducing Energy Intensive forms of development”?

Here are a few examples:

Retail Super stores like WALMART and Reliance are not really a “Development” requirement. When I buy vegetables from the neighbourhood vegetable vendor, I am using less energy – the vegetables are brought from a nearby village in a lorry or more often, the vendors bring them in Public Transport buses. The vendors walk around the city on thei
r Push Wheel Carts – No
pollution or energy use at all. In earlier times, we carried our own bags, so no plastic either. Now plastic carry bags have increased the energy usage of this traditional marketing system. Since there is no cold storage or packaging involved, no energy is used, and besides we know that what we see, is what it is,if it is four days old vegetable or fruit it shows – In effect, we buy more fresh vegetables in this system.

Now take a typical super market in Europe or America, which we are trying to bring into India. First we need to build a huge building – energy is used in the manufacture of cement, bricks, mortar, and even the construction (since manual labour is getting phased out). Then, the building uses a lot of electrical appliances and of course air-conditioning. Then packaging (because otherwise things do not look so good) and carry bags with the labels of Reliance or WALMART– again another industry which manufactures the plastic and then the energy used in packaging industry.

Most importantly – Cold Storage and Transportation: because in a superstore one can buy anything: bananas from Costa Rica to American Sweet Corn, Fruits from Australia, what ever. Can you imagine the amount of energy that is used in this entire process – as electricity, as petrol among others?

Then, another consideration – bananas in their natural state last about a few days to a week may be. But to bring bananas from Costa Rica or West Indies to Scandinavia, will at least take  a couple of days from the farm to the ship, and then another 10-15 days on the ship and then from there to the store in another day or two. How will bananas last this long? By artificial means – using “IRRADIATION”. In effect, the cost of energy and then finally the “nuked” bananas don’t justify the whole fanciful idea of buying inside a “posh” looking supermarket.

In the UK, in order to save energy, people started to  buy local food from local farmers. So, that must be giving WALMART and their likes a run for their money, so they descend on countries like India, where, we the middle class feel, we are Developed” if we buy from an Energy Intensive Super Store, rather than our friendly neighbourhood vegetable vendor. Because getting down from your car in front of a street vendor doesn’t add to your status.

Speaking of Cars – if only if we had a good system of Public Transport and used less cars and motorbikes, so much energy would have been saved! Not just in the direct saving of petrol, but in reducing the number of cars manufactured, we reduce the mining, and manufacturing thus saving tons of energy!

Another example: take Hyderabad – we had a river called Musi that provided us with drinking water. We polluted it, polluted all our lakes, all water resources, and now we are using Five Lifts to pump water from Krishna River and transport it over 150 kms to bring water to Hyderabad. If only we can stop this nonsense of allowing pollution of our water bodies by the industry we could have saved all that energy which is being spent everyday to bring water to Hyderabad.

Now the villages in downstream area which earlier drank water from the Musi River are being supplied the same Krishna Water through tankers. The tankers go almost daily from Hyderabad to these villages. One tanker goes to about 10 villages. There are nearly 50-60 villages like these. Now one tanker uses 100-150 liters of diesel in a day and that is almost 54,750 litres in 365 days! Can we assess the amount of energy costs we are paying for the pollution caused by energy intensive Industry (which is supposed to bring development to us)?

All the agriculture, fisheries in this area has suffered enormously. At the end of the day, it is the urban people and the Industry who are demanding more and more energy – and has the Industry been able to replace Agriculture as the Majority Employment Provider? No, not yet, but it may take over, for soon, we may be left with no good agricultural land to grow our crops, as we continue to follow this ENERGY INTENSIVE developmental model that thinks that the Small Car (Energy consuming once again) of TATA’s which will provide employment to 2000 people in 10 years time, has a right to occupy 1000 hectares of prime agricultural land that is currently providing employment to 10,000 people and make them destitutes!

We can save tons of energy, doing away with 24 hour TV (when people watch less TV, so much power gets saved). In any case TV is doling out trash that psyches the minds of the young generation, making them buy more and more, increasing consumerism, and thus increasing mining and manufacturing to produce goods for this artificial demand created by the Media. When we follow these measures, we will surely be able to provide enough power to our farmers!

We cave save lot of energy that is wasted by lighting up trees on the Tankbund, by cutting down on energy used in entertainment shows/ Fashion Shows…(while we put a curb on the power used by the farmers, there is no curb on the energy used in these shows!)  

The list is endless…there fore, the need for more energy comes from all these factors, and there fore we demand for NUCLEAR ENERGY as the option, even if it means we kill our own people, right now and in future! It doesn’t matter that our own governments are killing innocent people in the name of Development – I am beginning to wonder – are we living in a democracy?

So, there fore, while on the one hand we kill farmers by displacing them to make way for energy intensive projects; we kill adivasis in the name of providing electricity to the farmers by way of Nuclear Energy.That the farmers are committing suicides due to the consequences of green revolution, World Bank Policies, WTO, Monsanto, Pesticide and Fertilizer Industry is another issue. But once again, the Monsantos and Dow Chemicals of the world need to be protected and provided precious Energy, so that they can kill poor,illiterate farmers who earlier were using “No Energy” or “Low Energy” form of traditional agriculture; and who were made to convert to this “High Energy Intensive” form of chemical farming. Forced to dig tubewells and unable to pay the high power bills, Or, unable to use the water from the tubewells due to power shortages; while the Industry is provided fresh water at its doorstep; which doesn’t have the decency to release clean, unpolluted water into the environment.  Sure enough, farmers will continue to commit suicides as we provide more money and more ENERGY for airports in every small town of this country, while a village will continue to suffer without a regular bus or a proper road.

We do have our priorities – and the poor must become the scapegoats of this development of ours, while we continue to debate on such issues inside the comforts of air-conditioned rooms, zipping away in our fancy cars, while we listen to music from an i-pod! Sure enough, we have got our priorities right!

Saraswati Kavula