India explores “cheap power” sales to neighbors

India is exploring selling “cheap power” to its South Asian neighbors and Myanmar on a long-term basis and wants state utility NTPC to expand overseas. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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India explores “cheap power” sales to neighbors

NEW DELHI: India is exploring selling “cheap power” to its South Asian neighbors and Myanmar on a long-term basis and wants state utility NTPC to expand overseas, its power minister said on Tuesday.
Indian companies such as Reliance Power Ltd. and Adani Power Ltd. have already signed agreements to supply power to Bangladesh, where New Delhi is fighting for influence with China. India also sells some electricity to Nepal and Myanmar, but power minister R.K. Singh said it could sell more.
“Neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh are viable markets ... where the per-unit cost of electricity is very high,” Singh said in a statement released by the power ministry.
“There is huge opportunity to export cheap power to neighboring countries which will be beneficial for the entire region,” he said.
The ministry would look at sending teams to those countries to assess demand for power imports, he said.
Singh urged India’s top utility NTPC to set up power plants in other countries and “become the world’s largest power producer,” but did not say where it should expand.
India became a net exporter of electricity in 2016, although it also imports from neighboring Bhutan.
Singh, however, said its power surplus would start to decline once all households are connected. Currently around 300 million of India’s 1.3 billion people are without electricity.
“If you look at the entire power sector, the demand has been suppressed because not everyone is connected,” Singh said. “We have just started taking off and are going to enter double digit growth. What we see as excess capacity today may not turn out to be enough if we unlock that demand.”
Many Indian power companies have struggled to repay loans in the past three years after expanding aggressively at the beginning of this decade, as a combination of tepid demand and uneven coal supplies hit their operations.


Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

Updated 20 October 2018
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Can a hungry Mali turn rice technology into ‘white gold’?

  • Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983

BAGUINEDA: When rice farmers started producing yields nine times larger than normal in the Malian desert near the famed town of Timbuktu a decade ago, a passerby could have mistaken the crop for another desert mirage.
Rather, it was the result of an engineering feat that has left experts in this impoverished nation in awe — but one that has yet to spread widely through Mali’s farming community.
“We must redouble efforts to get political leaders on board,” said Djiguiba Kouyaté, a coordinator in Mali for German development agency GIZ.
With hunger a constant menace, Malians are cautiously turning to a controversial farming technique to adapt to the effects of climate change.

 

Dubbed the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), the new method was pioneered in Madagascar in 1983. It involves planting fewer seeds of traditional rice varieties and taking care of them following a strict regime.
Seedlings are transplanted at a very young age and spaced widely. Soil is enriched with organic matter, and must be kept moist, though the system uses less water than traditional rice farming.
Up to 20 million farmers now use SRI in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast, said Norman Uphoff, of the SRI International Network and Resources Center at Cornell University in the US.
But, despite its success, the technique has been embraced with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Uphoff said that is because it competes with the improved hybrid and inbred rice varieties that agricultural corporations sell.
For Faliry Boly, who heads a rice-growing association, the prospect of rice becoming a “white gold” for Mali should spur on authorities and farmers to adopt rice intensification.
The method could increase yields while also offering a more environmentally-friendly alternative, including by replacing chemical fertilizers with organic ones, he said.
He also pointed out that rice intensification naturally lends itself to Mali’s largely arid climate.

FACTOID

Up to 20 million farmers now use rice intensification in 61 countries, including in nearby Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ivory Coast.