SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY Thursday, October 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India

50000-MW hydro power initiative
R.N. Malik
ast year the Ministry of Power, Government of India, came out with a paper which spelt out the determination of Government of India to generate 1.12 lakh MW of power by 2013. The share of hydro power was kept at 40 per cent. As a sequel to this decision, the ministry released another four-page paper on May 24 this year at a function inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India.


Is there a God or not? If there is, give some evidence for His existence.
You have put me a difficult question. That is strange because you are asking about some thing in which millions rest their belief. I cannot scientifically prove or disprove His existence. I know that it is a concept that is widely accepted.

New products & discoveries

  • Star Trek  world of virtual reality

  • Typing style says it all

  • People and coral don’t mix




50000-MW hydro power initiative
R.N. Malik

Last year the Ministry of Power, Government of India, came out with a paper which spelt out the determination of Government of India to generate 1.12 lakh MW of power by 2013. The share of hydro power was kept at 40 per cent. As a sequel to this decision, the ministry released another four-page paper on May 24 this year at a function inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India. The title of this paper is “50000-MW Hydroelectric Initiative”. Though the paper is over-simplified, still it contains some vital basic information and
more realistic determination of the
government to achieve this target.

The paper is, however, silent on outsourcing of finances to complete the projects by the year 2017 (not 2012 as outlined in the first paper).

The ministry has collected basic data from earlier survey of 845 schemes which can generate 1.5 lakh MW of power. It, therefore, has planned to shortlist 162 projects which can generate 50000 MW of power by 2017. The work on these projects will start by 2007 when all prefeasibility and detailed project reports are completed.

According to the paper, Hydropower potential in different river basins is below:

The ministry has gone a step further by ranking these power projects into three categories.

Category A schemes were considered as most attractive with respect to accessibility, logistics, power potential and cost benefit ratio. The distribution of projects into three groups is as below:

Ranking studies were discussed with representatives of different states, CPSUs and other organisations. Finally 162 projects with a capacity of 50561 MW were selected for planning and execution. These 162 projects were handed over to different organisations such as WAPCOS (71), NHPC (43), NEEPCO (18), HISEB (10), SJVNL (2), KPCL (5), UJVNL (13) for preparation of prefeasibility reports. Preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) will follow this step. This work is expected to be completed by 2007. Implementation of projects will start in 2008 and all the 162 projects are likely to be completed by 2017.

This is a mammoth project/initiative which the Ministry of Power has taken. In fact, it is a historical decision because hydropower projects had been placed on the backburner during the last 40 years. Therefore, the Ministry of Power deserves kudos for realising the importance of launching hydro power projects after a gap of 40 years. But the initiative paper in just four pages for this gigantic step is too oversimplified to carry conviction. The ministry should have added the list of these 162 projects and some more details in the paper.

The second deficiency in the paper is that it is totally silent on the nature of the projects i.e. how many projects are run-of-the-river schemes and how many multipurpose projects. Till this differentiation is made, clear picture of the project will not emerge. This is because run-of-river schemes are misleading in their power generation projections. For example, Khodri Power Project (I&II) in Uttaranchal has an installed capacity of 420 MW. But power at rated capacity is generated only during three months of the year. For rest of the nine months only 20 per cent power is generated i.e. hardly 90 MW because of low flows during the lean period. Had there been a storage dam upstream (Keshao Dam), this project would have generated power at the rate of 420 MW round the year. Hence the run-of-the-river projects should be accompanied by a multi-purpose dam in the upstream. Only then its cost is justified appropriately.

Third, the ministry is totally silent on the arrangement of finances. The capital cost of a hydro- power project is Rs 6 crore per MW. Hence projects with a capacity of 50,000 MW will require Rs 3 lakh crore. There is a provision of only Rs 50,000 crore in the 11 and 12th Five Year Plans. Till there is a firm commitment of adequate finances the project will remain a pipedream.

The ministry is probably relying on private power producers to take up this project. The possibility is very bleak because private power producers have shown lukewarm approach so far for want of comfortable power purchase agreement and lack of guarantee for minimum 90 per cent power evacuation. Projects with a capacity of 50,000 MW can be completed in 10 years or even earlier provided:

1. There is an uninterrupted flow of funds.

2. Works are allotted to the agencies.

3. Dams are constructed in series along the river to reduce spillway capacities.

4. There are more of storage dam projects than run-of-the-river schemes.

5. Even costs can be brought down considerably than Rs 6 crore per MW if the stone masonry dams are constructed in series along the river channel.

Therefore, the ministry should re-cast the paper and publish it in the form of a booklet giving all the aforementioned details. Once such a booklet is circulated to the knowledgeable and concerned persons in the country, a strong movement may be built up and industrialists may also come forward to contribute financially to the government. This will be possible if the government emphasises the following aspects of hydro power projects.

1. Once the projects are completed, power will be available to every citizen at an affordable cost of Rs 3.00 per unit. This is because running cost of hydro power projects is almost nil.

2. Sufficient water will be available for farmers for irrigation. Canal irrigation may replace costly tubewell irrigation in many areas.

3. Floods will be banished from the country for all times to come.

The best policy would be to arrange the finances as far as possible from the general budget or makes borrowing at low interest rates. Alternatively, the government should introduce compulsory saving schemes at low interest rates.

In fact, it has become a mindset for the Power Ministry to look at the hydroelectric only as producers of electricity. That is why the NHPC has mostly taken up costly run-of-the-river projects. The fact of the matter is that real benefit from hydropower is the availability of irrigation water and flood control. Power is a byproduct. If the projects are selected with this perception, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources Development can also contribute to the finances.

Assuming there is no problem of ensuring uninterrupted finances Rs 3 lakh crore over a period of 10 years, even the construction of 162 projects with steady progress is not a child’s play. A central high powered agency will have to be created to coordinate the gigantic projects in different states. But if somehow the Government of India is able to construct hydroelectric projects generating 50000 MW uniformly round the year (by the year 2017) the country will usher in an era of economic renaissance. Let us hope and pray that this dream comes true.



Is there a God or not? If there is, give some evidence for His existence.

You have put me a difficult question. That is strange because you are asking about some thing in which millions rest their belief. I cannot scientifically prove or disprove His existence. I know that it is a concept that is widely accepted. That no one can deny. But you could also say that God is a necessity of humans. They look for reasons for their existence, order and natural law.

A God ends this search. He is no less important even if he is a human creation. He is not believed to be a physical being that can be detected through physical means of science. One can of course say that mere existence of the universe with its order and the immutable working of the natural law is evidence enough.

Why should any one ask for more? But then one has also to accept that once the natural laws are in place, there is not very much left for God to do? He cannot be expected to break his own laws, no matter what the circumstances. On the other hand the prayers of the believers might have a beneficial effect. Perhaps the reason for this is not because the Supreme Being really listens to every request or indulges in nepotism. The reason might be that the act of prayer and meditation is intrinsically good for those of us who pray — it submerges feelings of self-importance and breeds a welcome humility. That might also explain the deep humanity of many truly religious persons.

I am personally so grateful that I was given a chance to live in this magnificent universe, with so much creativity, so much beauty and such amazing working together of various laws. The understanding of some of these laws gives me humility and joy that I was also constructed to develop a faculty of comprehension.

I have no quarrel with different ways of acquiring this humility and feelings of gratefulness. I do, on the other hand, highly deplore the animosities that have plagued our country and the world merely on the basis of the difference in labels and brand names we have given to these different ways.

Why are the planets around the sun in elliptical paths: why are they not all circular?

The general solution of equations of motion gives elliptical orbits. A circle is a specific example of an ellipse when the major and minor axes of the ellipse are equal. When we launch satellites around the earth and want them to have circular orbits we follow the following procedure:

The satellite is first put in an elliptical orbit with its highest point close to the distance at which a circular orbit is desired. This point in the orbit is called the apogee. The satellite goes around the earth, passing quite close to the earth during the perigee. After accurately determining the parameters of the orbit the satellite is given a measure of push by firing rockets when it reaches the apogee next. This helps to circularise the orbit. The process may have to be repeated to achieve the exact orbit desired.

How a helicopter takes off from the ground? Then how does it move forward?

A helicopter has large rotating blades driven by a powerful engine. They are angled in a way that at take off time they push a lot of air down with a great force. This gives the helicopter an upward thrust. The speed of rotation and the cutting angle of the blade determine the lift.

You might have noticed that helicopters also have a small fan mounted near the tail on a horizontal axis. This helps to rotate the helicopter. The forward movement can be obtained if the blades of the rotor are adjustable and are programmed in an appropriate way to provide a small forward component to the thrust of the main rotor.


New products & discoveries

Star Trek world of virtual reality

The virtual reality world of Star Trek’s Holodeck has been brought a step closer to reality by the development of a Cybersphere (a collaboration between University of Warwick’s Warwick Manufacturing Group and virtual reality company VR Systems UK).

Virtual environments have been extensively used in planetariums and military flight simulators where images are projected onto the inside of a large hemispherical surface or in CAVE systems, whereby images are back-projected onto walls and the floor of a room. However all of these suffer one important limitation — i.e. the inability to move around the virtual environment in a natural way.

Warwick Manufacturing Group researcher Vinesh Raja and VR Systems Principal Design Engineer Julian Eyre, have found that the Cybersphere can solve these problems by mounting a large (3.5 metres in diameter), hollow, translucent sphere on a ring of bearings with an additional low-pressure cushion of air allowing the sphere to rotate in any direction. The walking motion of the observer in the centre of the sphere causes it to rotate. The movement of the large sphere is transferred to a smaller secondary sphere which is held against the large projection sphere by means of spring loaded supports. The movement of the smaller sphere is then measured by rotation sensors, and the signals are used to update the images projected on the surface of the large sphere allowing the observer to walk, run, or crawl in any direction.

A number of high power projectors are used in combination to project the images which combine to provide a fully immersive visual experience for the observer and gives the illusion of walking freely through the computer generated environment.

Typing style says it all

Computing may be getting a lot more personal. Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed software that is able to identify computer users — with high accuracy — by their individual, distinct typing styles. This “behaviometric” technology may one day be part of security systems to prevent unauthorised users from gaining access to computers and sensitive data.

The technology can be extended to other applications that involve a sufficiently complex interaction between humans and machines. Examples of such applications would include the identification of unauthorised drivers or pilots.

The system prototype was developed in the Data Mining Lab of the Technion’s Computer Science Faculty by students Ido Yariv and Mordechai Nisenson, under the supervision of Technion Professors Ran El-Yaniv and Ron Meir. The group’s findings were presented on September 25 at the European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML/PKDD) held in Cavtat, Croatia.

“This software is based upon a universal prediction algorithm,” explains El-Yaniv. “It utilises statistics gathered while a person types freely, and learns the specific behaviour patterns that accurately identify the typist.” He goes on to explain that time differential patterns between consecutive keystrokes can uniquely determine a user. In some cases, this can be accomplished after only a very few keystrokes.

People and coral don’t mix

People and coral do not mix, and never have, scientists have said in a report that shows humans started killing off coral reefs thousands of years ago.

“No coral reef system in the world is pristine, and they haven’t been for a long time,” said John Pandolfi, a paleoecologist, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who worked on the international study.

Several reports in the journal Science suggest the only solution is to create larger, international preserves where no fishing, anchoring or collecting is allowed. — Reuters