Blog Archives

Building the green cover

IISc celebrated the World Environmental day on June 5, 2010, by planting nearly 150 indigenous species of tree saplings at the New Aerospace building near ‘D’ gate. Prof. Balaram planted the first sapling. Students turned up in hundreds to plant saplings and mark the occasion.

Director, Prof. P. Balaram, planting a sapling. Photo. Umesh (Aero)

The whole exercise was co-ordinated by Prof. Sankara Rao, CES, and organised by the IISc Green Gang. With the agenda of improving the native tree diversity in the campus, planting saplings of exotic trees in Karnataka was the agenda. The team led by Prof. Sankara Rao identified and procured saplings of rare and exotic varities of trees found in forests of Karnataka, mainly the Western Ghats. The next main task was placing identification tags on the saplings. Mr. Sridhar of IISc nursery helped in preparing pits and arranging for manure.

Among the saplings planted, there is a good mix of evergreen and deciduous (shed the leaves seasonally) trees. Most of the trees are timeless and can keep on growing for hundreds of years. Most of the saplings are Flagship species (species chosen to represent an environmental cause) of the Western Ghats. Some of the exotic species planted in the campus include Piney varnish tree, Indian rose chestnut and Balbale. Most of the saplings will grow into tall trees and will act as a sound barrier to the campus.

Students planting a sapling. Photo. Sridhar (ISU)

The IISc campus has some rare species of trees. The occurence of this trees is both ambigious and bizzare. There is no information on whether these trees were planted in the campus or are the result of the strange wilderness that occured in the bcampus several years ago. Some of the rare species found in the campus are Tree Wisteria, Limba Bao, Kan-Boorgi and Artocarpus. There are also some native species represented by just one specimen in the campus like Taloora lac tree, syzygium laetum and Indian willow. Snuff box sea bean or African Dream tree, a giant woody climber, is perhaps the only specimen in Bangalore and surrounding districts.

Planting the saplings is only half the job done. The job will be completed only if the student community make sure that the saplings dont die out due to lack of water. If proper attention is given, the Insitute can boast of a diversity that is unique with both exotic and native wild species, something unexpected in an urban setting such as Bangalore.

In the words of Prof. Sankara Rao, “with so much of diversity already existing in the campus, further efforts to bring in more of other species not represented would make IISc campus a unique arboretum in Bangalore and make this the only campus of an Institutionwith enormous diversity”.

[A Voices Press initiative with active help from Prof. Sankara Rao, CES. Photo Credits: Sridhar (ISU) and Umesh (Aero)]

Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed… but can be wasted!

In these days of rising carbon footprint, where in world economies are high on a debate on the energy predicament, it is essential for us as an individual and as an institution to contribute to the cause in our own little yet significant ways. However, these thoughts hardly hold any degree of importance in our day-to-day life. The greenery around us for sure is a bliss, and that is the probably the only reason we have to turn a blind eye to the energy wastage and the rising heat waves that we are confronted with. Despite the effort by a few individuals who are conscious about their energy consumption, as an organization we are definitely far from being energy efficient. While the city is facing acute power shortage, any amount of wastage is unjust.

Talking of energy conservation, the first step is probably volunteering to spread awareness. With so much effort already put in by the media and the environmentalists, is this the sole direction that we have? Let us look at the problem in a broader perspective. Many people don’t bother to switch off the lights or equipments or the computers in here..! It is strange that on joining IISc, one wonders why most appliances are left on always and then gradually we get into this vicious circle. ‘I don’t pay for it and hence I don’t care’; that is the attitude that most of us easily and unknowingly slip on to. With no means to know how much electricity one wastes, the problem boils down to the lack of accountability. Though the institute pays a bill, for the users electricity is essentially free. There is no penalty for wasting nor is there any incentive for conserving energy. This is probably the basic cause for the indifferent behavior that we have towards electricity wastage, unlike the much more responsible layman, who pays for every unit of electricity.

How do we then bring in accountability? Most of the power consumed in IISc is by the departments and centers. A plausible solution is to install energy meters in every lab/centre and make the users directly pay their own electricity bill. Now, this should not be a financial burden. Currently the institute is paying a bulk amount to BESCOM. Instead, that money can be distributed to the consumables accounts of individual labs/centers based on an equitable allocation scheme. If a lab conserves energy, they can use the money they save for other consumables. This will hence bring in the incentive-penalty scheme.

If we are able to implement this scheme, it will bring forth both awareness and responsibility among the institute community about their power consumption. Moreover, institute can have a budget allocation to regulate the power consumption. To begin with this task might be both tedious and time consuming. However, the outcome in the long run would be hugely beneficial. While our government has pledged to increase energy efficiency by 20% in the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, minimizing wastage is absolutely critical in every organization.

Being a naive attempt to restructure the power consumption framework of the institute, this proposal will definitely bring in concerns. Below we have a few possible questions which would place us on a better platform.

• How will the institute’s budget be divided among the different units?
Every month the institute will allocate a certain amount of money for electricity as a budget. Each lab/centre will get a fraction of the budget in their consumable account. There could be many possible schemes by which this fraction can be determined. A simple scheme without much of loopholes is as follows.

The fraction will be proportional to ratio of the maximum possible power consumption of the lab to the maximum possible power consumption of the institute. This maximum possible power consumption can easily be calculated as the sum of the power ratings of all the electrical appliances. In other words a lab would get money proportional to the power ratings of the equipment it possesses. But billing will be done based on energy consumed, which is more difficult to predict in advance. So it may not be exactly equitable. We can expect that statistically these minor inequalities will get averaged out over time.

Another possible scheme is to first fix the meters, measure the usage for a few months and then fix up the ratio.

Whenever a lab procures new equipment, the fraction and the overall budget will be revised appropriately.

• How much electricity do we waste?
Honestly, we don’t know. In many instances, the line dividing usage and wastage is not well defined. For a third person, it is difficult to say usage from wastage, but the user can certainly distinguish wastage without ambiguity. Guestimates for electricity wastage at IISc vary from 10% to 25%. But given that the institute consumes more than two million units per month, the wastage is quite a lot in absolute terms.

• Electrical wiring of the institute is quite complex. How to measure who is using how much energy?
A complication can arise in introducing a billing system for electricity at IISc. That has to do with the wiring in this kind of institution unlike a residential complex. For instance, there could be a main supply line to each department and it could branch off into the different labs/centres. There could also be sub-units which have to be billed separately. There could be appliances common to multiple labs or the whole department.

One possible solution to this problem is to model the electrical wiring in the form of a tree structure. We can build a large tree structure for the entire institute based on the existing electrical wiring. There shall be an energy meter fixed at each node of the tree. Only the leaf nodes shall pay for the full meter reading. All the parent nodes will subtract the energy consumed by their children nodes and pay for the remaining. For instance, a lab will be a leaf node and will pay for the full meter reading; while the department will be a parent node and will pay for the remaining, like central facilities, office, corridors etc.
The above mentioned ideas might sound just theoretical to some of the readers. But if we are committed to become energy efficient, we will for sure cause a few more lighted days for the generations to come.

If you would like to be a part of this movement, join us!
The Green Gang, IISc
To know more about the initiative you can contact Mohansundaram (Physics) of Green Gang at (91)9880012252