Category: india

Google’s New Payment App Uses Ultrasonic Frequencies to Transfer Cash

Fast Finances

Google has launched a new mobile payment app in India called Tez for iOS and Android devices. Named after a Hindi word meaning ‘fast,’ it allows users to make swift, secure cash transfers using technology known as audio QR.

While India is home to 300 million smartphone users, many of these devices are entry level or mid-tier, and don’t feature near-field communication technology. As a result, they don’t support services like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay.

Tez forges a connection between the two devices taking part in the transaction using ultrasonic frequencies, which are inaudible to human ears. As a result, there’s no need to share bank account information or even a telephone number.

The service is protected by Tez Shield, a platform devised by Google that’s able to detect fraudulent usage, and keeps user identities under wraps.

Quicker Than Cash

In November 2016, the Indian government announced a ban on cash bills worth more than 500 rupees ($7.77). This decision removed more than 85 percent of the country’s currency from circulation, and as a rush, digital transactions have seen a sharp increase in popularity.

Google isn’t the only company attempting to field an app fulfilling this purpose to the Indian market. Whatsapp is apparently in talks with the National Payments Corporation of India — the governing body behind the Unified Payments Interface platform that links Tez up to users’ bank accounts — in the hopes of launching its own service.

For the moment, Google is pitching Tez squarely at the Indian marketplace. However, if it proves to be successful, the company hopes to release the app in countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand.

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Tesla Must Overcome Local Production Laws Before Bringing EVs to India

Tesla wants to bring its electric vehicles to India, and they plan to make the Model 3 their first EV in the country by 2019. CEO and founder Elon Musk mentioned it back in June of this year, and now he’s said it again. Replying to a question on Twitter, Musk explained that Tesla continues to be in “discussions” with the national government of India, the second-most populous nation on Earth.

The only difference between his June announcement and now is the focus of discussion — that is, what it is keeping Tesla from bringing their EVs sooner. Back in June, Musk said that they were asking for a “temporary relief on import penalties/restrictions” until a factory, presumably a gigafactory, is built in India.

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Now, Musk says the delay is due to difficulties with so-called local content requirements. It’s a policy that requires goods to have a certain percentage of the production process sourced from local manufacturers. Musk is asking for a temporary reprieve from this condition until a gigafactory can be built in India.

With these hurdles overcome, and the Model 3 production goals met, India could be a great market for EVs. In fact, the country already has legislation to sell only electric cars by 2030. For Tesla, getting into the Indian market before that obtains is crucial, especially with the country on its way to becoming the world’s third-largest car market by 2020.

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The Largest Rail Network in Asia Just Debuted a Solar-Paneled Train

On the Right Track

Indian Railways is decreasing their diesel consumption by rolling out a Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train with a solar-paneled roof. The panels will produce the power required by the fans, lights, and electronic display systems in passenger coaches. Any surplus energy can be stored in an onboard battery.

The train debuted in New Delhi, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world, on July 14, and the company plans to retrofit solar panels onto 24 more trains in the near future.

Indian Railways estimates that attaching solar panels to six coaches on a train could save as much as 21,000 liters of diesel every year. Not only would that be environmentally beneficial, it would also be economically wise.

Indian Railways spends a significant amount of money on diesel every year, with the cost of powering the railway reaching Rs16,395 crore ($2.5 billion) in 2015. By using the solar technology, the company believes it can save Rs41,000 crore ($6.31 billion) over the next 10 years.

A Worldwide Effect

The solar train initiative is symptomatic of two wider trends: India’s bid to become a greener nation and a worldwide stress on developing cleaner transportation.

India hopes to produce 60 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027, and to that end, the nation has launched a series of projects to decrease its carbon footprint. India Coal, which produces 82 percent of the country’s coal, has closed 37 mines; the government has announced a plan to use only electric cars by 2030; and a 10 km2 (3.86 m2) solar power plant in Tamil Nadu broke the record for the largest solar farm in the world.

The History (And Future) Of High Speed Rail
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The trains are also one example of many ingenious methods engineers and scientists are using to decrease emissions in the transportation sector, which accounts for 14 percent of worldwide emissions.

In 2017 alone, we have seen a zero-emissions plane capable of flying 965 kilometers (600 miles) on a single charge, a pavement in London that produces energy from footsteps, and a boat that is capable of energy self-sufficiency by deriving its power from a combination of solar, wind, and hydrogen pulled from sea water.

A combination of individual innovations — such as trains that utilize solar energy — and national changes in energy policy will prove invaluable in our fight against global warming. Decreasing emissions worldwide is the goal, and while each of these initiatives may only be a drop in the ocean, when combined, they can make a world of difference.

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India Will Be the Second Country in the World To Use a Novel Nuclear Technology

Fast Breeders

As a country with a huge demand for electricity, India is wise to step up its renewable energy game. The country recently announced plans to shut down more than 30 of its coal mines and is steadily veering away from coal-fired plants, so naturally, it needs an alternative.

As the country works to develop its renewable energy sources, perhaps its biggest achievement yet has come from nuclear energy, and its newest nuclear plant is a kind you may not even know existed.

For 15 years now, India’s nuclear scientists have been working on a gigantic nuclear facility in Kalpakkam, a city on the shores of the Bay of Bengal near Chennai. Unlike most facilities, this one is a fast breeder nuclear reactor, a technology India has been working to perfect for 27 years now, beginning with an experimental facility called a Fast-Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR).

Fast breeder reactors are different from conventional nuclear plants because the neutrons that sustain the atomic chain reaction travel at higher velocities. This type of reactor is capable of generating more fuel that it consumes, a behavior typically made possible by elemental uranium.

Renewable Energy Sources Of The Future [Infographic]
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“[F]ast reactors can help extract up to 70 percent more energy than traditional reactors and are safer than traditional reactors while reducing long lived radioactive waste by several fold,” Yukiya Amano, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, explained to the Times of India.

Uranium isn’t common in India, but the country has the second largest store of thorium, so the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in Kalpakkam uses rods of that element.

Safer and Cleaner

Prior to India’s PFBR, the only commercially operating fast breeder nuclear reactor was Russia’s Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, located in the Ural Mountains. Russia’s fast breeder reactor utilizes elemental uranium, though, so India’s is truly one of a kind. China is also pursuing a similar program, but their technology is more than a decade behind India’s.

Other countries, such as Japan and France, have also tried to develop their own fast breeder technologies, but they haven’t been successful because of technical and safety reasons. However, Arun Kumar Bhaduri, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, told the Times of India that the technology is safe: “[F]ast breeder reactors are far safer than the current generation of nuclear plants.”

With the PFBR, India is pioneering a kind of nuclear technology that could potentially be the country’s greatest renewable energy source. That’s a big step, especially since nuclear fission remains the only kind of nuclear reaction we’ve managed to sustain, though efforts to make nuclear fusion viable are still in the works.

India is the world’s second largest contributor to climate warming gasses, behind only China. While the latter seems to be leading the world in harnessing solar and wind energy, India is determined to make nuclear energy work in their favor.

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India is Digitalizing Everything From Cash to Citizen Identification

Cash Bans and Digital Plans

Last November, as part of a controversial master plan to make India a cashless and digitized society, the Prime minister Narendra Modi announced that Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes were to be demonetized, which effectively stripped the value of 86 percent of the country’s circulating cash.

The move was one of the last stages of the plan, after the groundwork had been laid by introducing the Aadhaar biometric database, which gave 95 percent of the population a digital proof of identity in 2016. Aadhaar was augmented by India Stack, which allowed people to store and share information such as addresses, bank statements, employment records, and tax filings — all of which were ratified by the Aashaar system.

The key aspect of India Stack was giving everyone in the country access to one of 11 Payment Banks which could manage payments and transfers but not issue loans. Eliminating cash forced people to adopt this new digital infrastructure, causing 270 million people to open bank accounts and 10 billion dollars to be deposited in the first three years — this generated momentum for what may evolve into the first cashless society in the world.

A Case for Cashless?

The decision has significant ramifications not only for India, but for the rest of the world as well. For India, there will be friction initially because of the preeminence of cash-based transfers in the society: it was estimated earlier this year that 78 percent of transactions in the country still used cash.

Cheap Tech Fixes That Could Transform Life In Developing Countries
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This may be justified, though, by the longer term gains. The move could curb corruption and “black money” in India as well introduce a more robust, effective tax system. It could also make payments a completely secure affair — bringing an unprecedented formality and modern bureaucracy to the Indian economy.

The worldwide ramifications of India’s digitization are serious too. Raoul Pal, former manager of GLG Global Macro Fund, wrote in an editorial for Mauldin Economics, “It may well be a bitcoin killer or at best provide the framework for how blockchain technology could be applied in the real world.”

Even if it does not herald the end of bitcoin, the move will prove an interesting experiment to observe for other countries looking to go cashless, such as Sweden, which has seen a 40 percent reduction in cash and coin in circulation.

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India Has Shut Down 37 of the World’s Biggest Coal Company’s Mines

On its Way Out

Things are not looking good for the coal industry. In the latest blow to this fossil fuel, the world biggest coal company is closing a total of 37 mines. It seems that the rise of solar power is playing a major role in the decline of coal. The company, Coal India, produces 82 percent of India’s coal, according to The Independent. The closings account for nine percent of Coal India’s sites.

*4* The World’s Largest Coal Producer is Shutting Down a Number of Sites

The Indian government has recently shifted from coal to cleaner, renewable sources, most notably solar power. Just last week, the government announced that it has abandoned plans for building another coal power station with Chimanbhai Sapariya. T,he country’s energy minister noted that “Our focus is now on renewable energy. The government will encourage solar power.” The prices of solar power continue to plummet as technology and government incentives work to make renewable energy more attractive.

India is leading the way in a renewable energy revolution. Analyst Tim Buckley said, “Measures taken by the Indian government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal-fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable.”

Image credit: David Goehring/Flickr
Image Credit: David Goehring/Flickr

Clean Air

A recent story by the New York Times showed that India’s air pollution crisis is responsible for the deaths of around 1.1 million people in the country every single year, rivaling China as the deadliest in the world. The decline of coal being burned for power will only improve the air quality, saving more lives as efforts move toward cleaner energy. In another historic move, the country has pledged to ensure that every car sold in India by 2030 will be electric.

This combination will be a one-two punch to the deadly pollution plaguing the country. A new population report from the UN released last week foresees that India’s population will continue to boom and is projected to surpass China’s 1.4 billion by 2024. That increased population is going to add to the country’s energy needs and we need to be prepared to meet it with clean energy from renewable sources.

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Elon Musk in Talks to Bring Electric Cars to India

Tesla Enters the Indian Market

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he’s in talks with India’s government to sell electric cars in the country, which is currently the fourth-largest auto market in the world.

Musk said on Twitter Thursday that he is currently negotiating a relief on import penalties until Tesla can build a local factory. This isn’t the first time Musk has announced he intends to enter the Indian market — Musk said in February he was hoping to launch in the country this summer.

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India could become one of the most important markets for Tesla given the country’s massive population size and focus on reducing emissions.

Adoption of Electric Vehicles

Vehicle adoption in India is expected to grow rapidly. At its current pace, the country is set to become the third-largest auto market in the world by 2020, according to a May report by the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian government’s resource center for economic information.

India’s passenger vehicle segment witnessed the most growth in the 2016 fiscal year, but two-wheelers still secure the most widespread adoption.

But some foreign automakers have so far struggled to increase sales in India, driven partially by a crackdown on diesel vehicles. General Motors put its $1 billion planned investment in India on hold last summer due to poor sales and the regulatory environment, Reuters reported at the time.

What could give Tesla an edge is that India is looking to promote electric and hybrid vehicle sales through its National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The initiative aims to have 6-7 million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2020 by offering manufacturing and purchasing incentives. The country, however, will need to invest heavily in a charging infrastructure to make that vision a reality.

As Musk explores India, Tesla is also looking to further tap into the Chinese car market, the largest in the world, as the government pushes battery-powered vehicle adoption.

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World Leaders Respond to Trump’s Decision to Remove the U.S. From Paris Accord

Modi Makes Statement

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi vowed today that his country will not only stick with the 2015 Paris Accord, but will go “above and beyond” its goals aimed at fighting climate change, selling only electric cars throughout the country within 13 years, for example. Attending a news conference today with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Modi made his remarks as he described the accord as part of “our duty to protect Mother Earth.”

The agreement commits 195 countries including the U.S. — every country in the world except war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, who argued the agreement was not strong enough — to ensure that global temperatures remain “well below” 2ºC above pre-industrial levels, and “endeavor to limit” them to 1.5ºC. India’s commitment is critical to the agreement’s success, as it is currently the world’s fourth-biggest producer of carbon emissions, after China, the U.S., and the EU.

Global Consensus (Almost)

Multiple world leaders have both reaffirmed their nations’ commitments to the agreement and criticized President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. The EU, Canada, and China have confirmed their commitments, while Canada expressed disappointment in Trump’s choice. President Macron of France characterized Mr. Trump’s decision as a “mistake both for the US and for our planet.” 

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
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On Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said his country would cooperate with European leaders who “worry about global uncertainty,” in the wake of the decision. At the same conference, EU Council President Donald Tusk referred to a joint statement from the EU and China promising to “step up” efforts to fight climate change, including the raising of $100 billion annually by 2020 to support reducing emissions in poorer countries: “China and Europe have demonstrated solidarity with future generations and responsibility for the whole planet.”

Mr. Modi’s views appear to be in tandem with those of other world leaders, along with much of the U.S. at the state and local levels, as well as corporate America. After his meeting with Mr. Macron, Mr. Modi indicated that India and France had “worked shoulder to shoulder” on the Paris accord, and emphasized in the same press conference that both nations see it as critically important for all nations. “The Paris agreement is the common heritage of the world. It is a gift that this generation can give.”

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An End to Fossil Fuels: India Commits to Sell Only Electric Cars by 2030

Doubling Their Efforts

Yesterday was a particularly glum day for climate scientists, with President Donald Trump withdrawing U.S. support for the Paris Climate Agreement, an action that resulted in the resignation of serial entrepreneur Elon Musk from his government advisory posts. The move was widely criticized by experts, other nations, and the majority of Americans as a major setback in the global fight against climate change.

But as the U.S. deals with these developments, the world’s second most populated nation is making its own set of changes, and it’s caught the attention of Musk.

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The Tesla and SpaceX CEO tweeted an article posted by the World Economic Forum about India’s recent commitment to sell only electric cars in 13 years or sooner. Musk also noted, “It is already the largest market for solar power,” to highlight two separate efforts by India as it takes the fight against carbon emissions seriously. Both of these initiatives are indicative of the transformation India has recently been undergoing.

India’s Turn

Those who’ve seen that Leonardo DiCaprio documentary on climate change might remember that bit during the actor’s interview with India’s energy minister. After DiCaprio pointed out that India’s among the leading contributor for climate-warming gasses, the minister made a reply that stumped the actor.

She said that before talking about India, one has to look at the more developed nations and how they are serious about cutting down on their carbon footprint. Besides, India lives with what it has, and it couldn’t afford the alternative energy at that time.

Top 10 Countries Using Solar Power
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This no longer is the case, however, as India is finally working on means to change things. There’s the commitment to selling only electric vehicles, and more recently, India’s push for more renewable energy sources by scrapping a major coal project.

More promising still, the country now seems to be the biggest market for solar power with the opening of the world’s largest solar plant. Cost is no longer a problem for India to shift to renewable sources, with solar power now already cheaper than coal.

These efforts are vital to halting humanity’s negative impact on our world, according to environmental experts. Whatever the U.S.’s future involvement in the Paris accord may be, the nation must continue to transition to renewable energy if the globe is to avoid major repercussions from greenhouse gas emissions.

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India Is Scraping a Major Coal Project in Favor of Renewables

Canceling Coal

The Indian government has abandoned plans to build a second coal power station, choosing to focus on renewable energy instead in the state of Gujarat. Chimanbhai Sapariya, the country’s energy minister, said in an interview with the Business Standard that 4,000 Megawat ultra-mega power project (UMPP) was rejected because “Gujarat had proposed the UMPP last year but we now feel we do not need more […] We already have more than sufficient generation capacity.” The region already has one such plant existence.

India One Solar Thermal Power Plant. Image Credit: Bkwcreator, Wikimedia
India One Solar Thermal Power Plant. Image Credit: Bkwcreator/Wikimedia

Sapariya also said in the interview that, “Our focus is now on renewable energy. The government will encourage solar power.”

India agreed at the Paris climate change conference in 2005 to derive a much higher percentage of its power from green sources by 2030. This transition could have a global impact, as the Hindustan Times reported in 2016 that India was the fourth biggest polluter worldwide.

India agreed to extract 40 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels, and planned to do this by producing one terawatt of energy through solar power — this is four times the worldwide total currently produced. In addition, the country aims to become a nation that only uses electric cars by 2030.

The Indian government has been extremely successful in pursuing these aims. Recently, the price of solar-produced energy dropped below the price of energy produced by fossil fuels, the Kumuthis power plant has shown that it can produce as much energy as most coal and nuclear plants, and the country is exceeding its predictions by three-and-a-half years — on track to produce 60 percent of energy through green sources by 2027.

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Every Single Car Sold In India Will Be Electric By 2030

Going Electric

India’s coal and mines minister, Piyush Goyal, just revealed some exciting new plans: by the year 2030, every car sold in India will be electric. The aim of this move is to lower the costs of running electric vehicles and importing fuel, and to improve population health.

“We are going to introduce electric vehicles in a very big way,” minister Piyush Goyal remarked at the Confederation of Indian Industry Annual Session 2017 in New Delhi. Speaking with reporters, he compared the initiative to the successful 2015 promotion of LED lightbulbs, which was intended to reduce energy bills: “We are going to make electric vehicles self-sufficient. The idea is that by 2030, not a single petrol or diesel car should be sold in the country.”

According to The Independent, Mr. Goyal estimated that the electric car industry would require government assistance initially, but for only two to three years. After that, the Indian government expects the production of electric vehicles will be “driven by demand and not subsidy.”

“The cost of electric vehicles will start to pay for itself for consumers,” he said according to the International Business Times. “We would love to see the electric vehicle industry run on its own,” he remarked.
Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jepoirrier/
Via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jepoirrier/

Crisis On Multiple Fronts

In India, air pollution has become a public health crisis as well as an economic one. This is only poised to get worse without immediate, meaningful intervention. While India is somewhat ahead of the curve on this issue — feeling the pressure first due to high-density areas — it isn’t the only country in this position. China is making new strides in sustainable energy for similar reasons.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace released a report that attributed as many as 2.3 million deaths annually to air pollution in India. The report— entitled “Airpocalypse” — calls air pollution a “public health and economic crisis” for Indians, pointing out that the number of air pollution deaths in the nation are only “a fraction less” than the number of tobacco deaths. Furthermore, a full 3 percent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is devoured by toxic smog in the form of healthcare and other remediation costs.

Finally, the report indicates that without immediate action and a “robust monitoring system,” the problem will worsen: “India’s pollution trends have been steadily increasing, with India overtaking China in number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution in 2015.” For example, Delhi — India’s most polluted city — was found to have particulate matter concentrations 13 times the yearly limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Apparently, the Indian government knows that now is the time to act, and will target dense urban centers first. Mr. Goyal indicated that the electric car plan would focus on “larger consumer centers, where pollution is at an all-time high,” first.

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Nokia Begins Work to Bring 5G Technology to the World

Better, Faster, Stronger

A fast internet connection is a necessity in today’s world. Currently, the fastest available internet runs on what’s known as fourth generation — or 4G — technology. The fastest among 4G technology is called LTE, which is capable of delivering download speeds of 50mbps. However, a number of telecommunication companies (or telcos) all over the world are testing the next generation of internet technology; the so-called 5G. In India, telcos are working with Nokia to make 5G a reality.

India’s top telco, Bharti Airtel, together with state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nokia to convert existing network infrastructure to support 5G.

“Thoughts behind these MoUs would be to introduce 5G here, and what are the steps required for the same, besides identifying applications to define the target segment, which will lead to a complete 5G strategy for telcos,” explained Sanjay Malik, Nokia’s head of India market, speaking to the Economic Times. “It is more of a preparatory phase for getting into 5G.”

Field, content, and application trials are scheduled to begin in 2018.

This is the Fastest Internet on Earth
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Much Needed Speed Upgrades

In India, where network carriers have been criticized for not upgrading their technology fast enough, this effort by Airtel and BSNL is a welcome change. It’s certainly a long-sought upgrade — as internet speed in the country is still relatively slow. Market research firm Counterpoint noted that more than 90 percent of India’s existing mobile subscribers — exceeding a billion in total — were still on 2G networks at the end of 2016.

Commercial access to 5G technology might take about four to five years more, given the necessary infrastructure preparations, as well as overall viability. But it will be worth the wait: 5G internet can go 30 to 50 times faster than existing 4G technology. Access to uberfast internet speeds will make for a world of a difference in overall user experience. For example, downloading videos online — which often takes minutes, if not hours on very slow networks — would talk a matter of seconds with 5G.

But more than just for its entertainment and recreational value, 5G internet can actually save lives. It will boost the performance of self-driving softwares in autonomous cars and improve remote tele-surgery, among other technology that relies on the internet to facilitate operation.

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You Can No Longer Use Disposable Plastics in This Country’s Capital

A Ban On Plastic

India’s capital, Delhi, is taking a drastic stand against one of the biggest pollutants in the world: plastic.

Humanity produces 78 million tons of plastic packaging. Of that number, 32 percent ends up in our waters — roughly the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic per minute. And according to the a study published in Science, the amount of plastic waste that India dumped in the world’s oceans in 2010 was 12th highest of the 192 countries analyzed. China took the first position in that ranking, and the U.S. took the 20th.

You Can No Longer Use Disposable Plastics in This Country’s Capital
Credit: Science, Vol 347, Issue 6223, 2015

Adding to this are recent complaints about three local dump sites intended to operate as waste-to-energy plants, but were cited for illegal mass-burning of plastic and other waste, which added to the city’s air pollution.

This has prompted the National Green Tribunal to impose a ban on disposable plastic in the country’s capital city. Inhabitants of New Delhi are no longer permitted to use plastic bags, cups, or cutlery.

Deteriorating Environment

India’s continuously deteriorating environment is prompting government agencies and regulatory boards to enforce stricter rules on the country.

Apart from being a major contributor to pollution in oceans, India has also been cited for its waste-burning processes that pollute the air. A World Health Organization study notes that such practices cause premature deaths in the country due to the fine particles they releases, which can cause fatal respiratory infections, especially in children.

While India isn’t the first country to ban use of plastic, the country’s efforts are more comprehensive. Greenpeace hopes that this initiative will lead a much needed charge limiting global use of plastic.

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Meet the 700 MPH Hyperloop That’s Breaking Into Another Country

From its record-shattering single-day launch of 104 satellites to hosting the world’s largest solar farm, India has been making headlines lately. Now, another big development is on the horizon, and this one involves a hyperloop.

*3* Hyperloop Might Just Change the Face of India
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Hyperloop One is set on revolutionizing the way we transport everything from people to cargo. The company believes in a simpler, tube-based mode of transportation that ramps up to speeds rivaling that of an airplane with the fees of a bus ticket, and India might find itself one of the lucky few countries where the company builds a hyperloop transportation system.

According to Hyperloop One CEO Rob Lloyd, the company has been in communication with the ambitious government on ways to optimize a public-private partnership, with the Los Angeles-based company expecting to raise more than $100 million to invest in the country. For reference, Hyperloop One has already raised $32 million for its current projects in the U.S., Slovenia, and the U.A.E. — a third of the amount needed for the deal with India.

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Hyperloop Concept for India

However, the government of India is willing to spend $59 billion to transform and modernize its transportation systems, which may just benefit the Hyperloop One team after all. A project of this scale would fit right into India’s “make in India” country-building initiative. The increase in business and manufacturing would put the hyperloop’s 1,000 kph (621 mph) speeds to great use by significantly decreasing transportation times between India’s major cities. For example, a ride from Delhi to Mumbai, which currently takes about a day, would be cut to just 80 minutes on a hyperloop.

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India Just Broke a World Record With Its New Solar Farm

China may be the largest producer of solar energy in the world, but neighboring India is no less ambitious when it comes to renewable energy. Expected to become the world’s third-biggest solar market after China and the USA, it is putting its money where its mouth is. A case in point: the country has just put the world’s largest solar power plant into service.

This is good news not just for India’s future energy security but also for its people’s short-term energy needs.

Beating Records

The Adani Group’s new site in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu covers an area of 10 square kilometers and has a capacity of 648 megawatts (MW). This is nearly 100 MW more than the previous record-holder, the Topaz Solar Farm in California.

The plant was built in only eight months, comprises 2.5 million individual solar modules and cost $679m to build. It is estimated that it will produce enough electricity to power about 150,000 homes at full capacity.

Made up of five plants in a single location, the solar photovoltaic project has helped push India’s total installed solar capacity across the 10 gigawatt mark, which only a handful of countries can claim.

 Installed solar capacity and cost in India
Installed solar capacity and cost in India. Image: Bridge to India

Leading the World in Renewables

A signatory of the Paris Agreement, India is forecast to meet its renewable energy commitments three years early and exceed them by nearly half. The country is aiming to generate nearly 60% of its electricity from non-fossil sources by 2027.

Solar is a particular focus: it makes up only 16% of renewable energy capacity now but is set to contribute over half of the renewables target by 2022: 100 gigawatts of 175 GW. Large installations will be key to achieving this, and the government is planning 33 solar parks in 21 states, with a capacity of at least 500 megawatts each.

Plugging a Gap

Prioritizing solar is not just an investment in the future, though. India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and its energy use has doubled since 2000, according to the International Energy Agency.

Last year, the country declared that it had a power surplus for the first time ever, though The Hindu reported that 300 million people still don’t have access to electricity and power cuts continue to be ‘rampant.’ The issue, it appears, is that capacity remains unused in the grid because some state power companies simply cannot afford to buy sufficient electricity.

The Indian government has recently launched an energy ‘blueprint’, and raised its investment target for solar energy to $100 billion in an attempt to address both these near-term issues as well as securing its energy supply far into the future.

This will be important even if China is about to overtake India with an even larger solar power plant which is capable of producing 850 MW of power, enough to supply up to 200,000 households.

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Doctors 3D Printed a Replacement for This Woman’s Damaged Spine

From a Disease to a Disability

Human innovation continues to push forward in so many directions. In all walks of science, researchers are achieving new “firsts” in the pursuit of a better life for the people of the world. Now, doctors in India, a country that has been basking in its recent record-breaking satellite launch, have completed the nation’s first 3D-printed spinal restoration surgery.

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The patient, a 32-year-old Indian woman, lost her ability to walk due to a severe case of tuberculosis. The disease commonly affects the lungs, but it traveled to the woman’s spinal cord when her immune system was particularly weakened by drugs she was prescribed for infertility. The tuberculosis compromised her first, second, and third cervical vertebrae, removing support for both her skull and lower spine.

The damaged spinal cord resulted in a curved posture, weakness in her limbs, and an involuntarily sliding of the head. If left untreated, her condition would have been essentially a death sentence. However, a team of surgeons at Gurgaon Hospital had an interesting solution.

To Print a Spine

A team of surgeons led by Dr. V Anand Naik, a senior consultant of spine surgery from the Medanta Bone and Joint Institute, replaced the damaged vertebrae with a 3D-printed titanium copy. Using CT and MRI scans as reference, they first 3D printed a dummy spine that was perfectly sized for the patient’s needs. After much testing by design teams from India, the U.S., and Sweden for biomechanics and stress resistance, the final titanium implant was created.

Photo Credit: Sanjay Kumar Pathak
Photo Credit: Sanjay Kumar Pathak

Naik and his team then inserted the replacement between the first and fourth vertebrae, bridging the gap within the damaged spine. The surgery was completed over an intense 10-hour period, and afterward, Dr.Naik told the Hindustan Times, “It was a very complex surgery and the patient’s condition was deteriorating by the day. It would not have been possible to do it without 3D-printing technology.”

The woman is expected to recover fully in two weeks and live a normal life. Her journey is truly one for the history books. What seemed like an impossible case was resolved with multinational efforts that went beyond traditional medical thinking. Today’s “first” in a field could eventually become a common practice that saves many lives, but for now, just saving one is enough.

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The Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight

Doomsday_Clock

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World’s Largest Democratic Country to Endorse Universal Basic Income

An Official Endorsement

With Finland implementing a universal basic income (UBI) experiment that will run for the next two years, it seems that UBI is getting more attention as a viable system. Now, a leading advocate of UBI has said that the government of the world’s largest democratic country, India, is going to release a report endorsing UBI as “basically the way forward.”

The report, which will be part of the Ministry of Finance’s annual Economic Survey, is expected to be released this month. India has had considerable experience with UBI pilot programs in the country. Behind these programs is Guy Standing, a founding member of the Basic Income Earth Network, and he is the UBI advocate who says that India’s report will endorse the system.

According to Standing, the results of the UBI trials they’ve conducted were “remarkably positive.” Speaking to Business Insider, he said:

The most striking thing which we hadn’t actually anticipated is that the emancipatory effect was greater than the monetary effect. It enabled people to have a sense of control. They pooled some of the money to pay down their debts, they increased decisions on escaping from debt bondage. The women developed their own capacity to make their own decision about their own lives.

Standing isn’t the only person who supports UBI in India. Arvind Subramanian, a top Indian economic advisor, previously announced his support for the program.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, India has a growing economy despite a slight setback last year. Still, around 29.5 percent of the population lives in poverty, concentrated especially in rural areas. “People are dragged into poverty due to droughts, declining agriculture opportunities, disease, and so on,” Subramanian said at a university forum, quoted by The Times of India. “So the safety net provided by the government should be quite wide, and that is why [basic income] has some merit.”

Credits: Getty
Credits: Getty

An Answer to Unemployment

Standing, however, doesn’t think that India will implement a wide-scale program at the onset. “I don’t expect them to go the full way, because it’s such a dramatic conversion,” he said. But the government now sees UBI as feasible, and that’s the first hurdle to implementation.

The recent spotlight on UBI and countries’ willingness to give it a shot isn’t random — it’s closely linked to the rise of automation. Experts see the system as a potential solution to expected unemployment due to a predicted increase in job automation. According to a study by Oxford University and the Oxford Martin School, around “47 percent of jobs in the US are ‘at risk’ of being automated in the next 20 years.”

This has led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to comment in a CNBC interview that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”

Under a UBI program, citizens are given a fixed income regardless of their economic status and employment conditions, and the money can also be non-taxable, like in Finland’s version. The system can actually take the place of existing social service platforms, which are often more expensive for governments to sustain, so not only would individuals benefit financially, entire economies could as well. The only way to know for sure whether UBI will work is to try it on larger and larger scales, so we’ll have to wait and see what India has planned for its UBI program.

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The Evolution of Human Understanding of the Universe [INFOGRAPHIC]

How Mankind Viewed the Universe from Ancient to Modern Times

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