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?Chart out new sustainable development path?

India needs to tap the abundant gas available in Iran, Myanmar and Central Asia, says Pachauri.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2006 12:02 IST

India needsto tap the abundant gas available in Iran, Myanmar and Central Asia and should quickly overcome the political compulsions to meet its energy requirements, says RK Pachauri, director general of Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI). In an extensive conversation with M Rajendran, he also stressed the need for India to give a clarion call to the world on the issue of climatic change.

Excerpts:

Despite numerous policy interventions, gas based energy has not truly taken off in India. What is the reason?


I think there is a historical reason. A committee set up by the government in the 1980s had said that natural gas should not be used as a fuel, but only for high value applications and petrochemicals. That mindset went against the use of natural gas as a fuel. But, indications are that we will soon become a large importer of both coal and other fuel. So in order to diversify our sources of energy it is absolute ly essential that we use natural gas on a larger scale. There is lot of fuel in our neighbourhood like Iran, Myanmar and Central Asia. There has been some tardiness in our thinking and in the actions that we have to take. I can understand the political compulsion vis-a-vis Iran and India, but nations and leaders and governments that are able to think beyond the immediate generally catch the early worm.

Can nuclear energy become a future fuel solution for India? What are the impediments?

Nuclear energy can be one of the solutions if one can ensure enough raw material. We have limited uranium reserves and are still sometime away from the use of thorium which we have plenty of potential supplies of. Currently, nuclear energy constitutes less than three per cent of our total power capacity. We have to move aggressively for use of nuclear energy, but that would need India being accepted by the nuclear suppliers group. In this context, the US-India deal is significant. But India has to be recognised as a nuclear weapon state and accepted by the global community even though we have not signed the non proliferation treaty.

Currently, India’s energy requirements are primarily met by thermal production. Is this not an unhealthy trend?

I agree, but with hydro confined to only some parts of the country and a few other constraints it has not taken off. In the past we have been insensitive to the environment problems, rehabilitation and social impact due to hydro projects. This led to a great deal of resistance being built up for hydro power projects. There is also an element of financial risk due to long gestation period, increase in time and cost of project due to geological surprises. My belief is that if private sector had been involved early perhaps there would have been some positive results. This would have to be supported by a strong regulatory mechanism that would have ensured speedy clearance and redressal of environment, forest and social aspects.

What about mini hydel projects as a solution in the Northeast and other hydro power potential states in India? What has been TERI’s experience?

TERI has been involved with a project in Northeast to produce power on a local basis and dis tribute locally. It makes sense since the population there is highly dispersed. The problem in Northeast is that there has been lack of institutional capacity and capability. Uttaranchal is a good example where mini hydro projects have been successful.

There has been a lot of dependence on kerosene in India. What can be done to reduce this dependence with alternative energy sources?

We have recently brought out a paper with a detailed analysis. Kerosene subsidy should be targeted only for those who are below poverty line. This is essential since a large part of the kerosene that goes into the market is used for adulteration of petroleum products. Kerosene is primarily used for lighting in rural areas and this could be exchanged by use of subsidised photovoltaic solar lanterns. This technology is perfect and the products are durable. We need a major innovation in our system.

There has been sudden change in the climatic conditions across the world. Tata Energy Research Institute has been involved with the environment related projects. What role in you opinion India can play on this issue?

The world is not following the path of sustainable energy. It is important for a country like India to give a clarion call to the world to change the manner in which we have functioned with regard to protecting our environment.

The footprint of human activity on this planet has grown far larger than this earth can really tolerate.

This is manifested in the climate change. From the developing countries’ point of view, it is necessary that we need to chart out a new path of sustainable development.

Our annual Delhi sustainable development summit is one such attempt. We are getting a galaxy of people drawn from various profession and organisation to this event.

First Published: Jan 30, 2006 12:02 IST