Aug 2, 2014

Idea for Better Life - Recharging Ground Water

I live in Mumbai, India. That part of the world which gets heavy to very heavy rains. Where flooding is a norm from June till late August each year. This TIFR page states that the annual cumulative rainfall of about 70 inches or 1800 mm.

Now the paradox of my city is that every year, despite this phenomenal natural gift of pure rainwater, the water supply from the MCGM dwindles after February. People face water shortages, each year, the supply is cut by 10% first, then 20% and so on. One of the example is this report on dependence of rainfall in catchment areas, scarcity of which means water supply cuts.

Now, think about other places, which are not naturally endowed with such monsoon. Aurangabad, an industrial town only about 375 kms from Mumbai, where I studied engineering, faces acute water crisis every year. And this one problem leads to several other crises such industries facing power supply cuts, power plants being shut down, rise in water-borne diseases like dengue, diarrhoea, etc.

These water shortages get acute year over year. Each year the reservoirs, lakes tend to dry earlier than last year. This is an empirical observation. I leave it to the experts to prove me wrong.

I believe that one of the reasons responsible for such water shortages is the drying ground water level. And the reason for receding ground level is that we have cut the connection between the water falling from the sky and that of the ground. How, you ask?

My dear friends, with a very amicable set of chemicals such as concrete and asphalt, we have waterproofed our grounds, forever. And waterproof surfaces do not leak. We all know leakages. It is horrible when our roofs leak. But the really horrible thing is that our grounds no longer leak. The rains fall, we have tea and pakodas in the lovely balconies, and the water flows away in the sewers.

I have a small incremental idea to improve this situation. And it is inexpensive one for sure. Here it is:

1. All apartment complexes have separate pipes to allow water to flow away.
2. These pipes are taken to the ground level and then discharged into sewers.
3. Instead, during monsoons, connect these pipes to another set of pipes that go at least 15-20 feet deep below the ground level.
4. During monsoons connect the terrace pipes to these new pipes and divert rainwater from terraces of  buildings into the soil under the top concrete layer.

Something I have tried to depict in this slide here:

Ground is a large single reservoir. I believe this will reduce the load and dependence on the rainfall in catchment areas. This is similar to rain-water harvesting with a small change that we recharge the ground water.

I invite comments if this idea is correct. We need to reconnect the natural cycle of events, only then can we live in harmony with nature.

I invite all readers to comment. Thanks!

Jul 24, 2014

Ultimate sacrifice -Did Mumbai deserve it?

Why did the man lay down his life? What must have been his thoughts when he knew end was near? It wasn't sudden, that I am sure.  The man remained there with his team.

He probably stayed back to allow someone else live and see another day. The fireman who died knew the end was coming.

But as a city did we deserve his ultimate sacrifice. He did not because that was the only way someone else could live. He did not die because there was nothing else possible. He did not die because his city, his country had tried its best possible yet nature's fury was so fierce that fateful day that nothing else could have happened. No!

The man opted for his dangerous job because he thought all this is something his city, his nation would do.

He died because this city, we all, shortchanged him. Totally, completely,  absolutely.

The Mumbai city, famous for the Mumbai spirit, contributed by giving the permission to the building, not inspecting it from time to time, cheering by allowing sale of space there.

The spirited folks occupying the offices contributed by displaying exemplary foresight in letting things be, fire extinguishers be damned.

And who inspects a 20+ storeyed building when you can just sign off clearances on the ground floor over cup of tea.

If there is something called soul in us all, just feel sorry for the man who died for us. He died in vain for nothing is going to change here. We will continue to live with our famous Mumbai spirit.

Just remember that one day there will be an equally spirited someone refusing to die for you.

Jul 6, 2014

Facebook's Missed Call ads and my post from stone-age

The race to capture the value at bottom of the pyramid brings to us a unique offering from Facebook. For the low-end phones (read as not smartphones), which are still carried by almost two-thirds of Indian subscribers, Facebook is bringing in missed-call ads.

This has the potential to be a game changer. While this article does not speak whether they plan to use internet / data here, I believe the real potential will be tapped if the program is run irrespective of data availability. Despite impressive mobile network reach, countries like India have some time before data is pervasively available.

So there is nothing to boast about here, yet let me point to one of my posts from few years ago where I had discussed on the missed-call innovation. You can read it here - The very interesting "Missed Call".

I had described a few use cases there. The whole concept of missed call is on the basis of what I called "inter personal communication protocol (IPCP)". That is the knowledge of what is to be done is known only to the 2 parties exchanging the missed call - The idea of IPCP is the users decide the meaning of the missed call.

Facebook (and I am sure others will follow soon) are tapping this IPCP with some enhancements. Lets see where this innovation goes.

May 22, 2014

India's competitiveness in broadband

Very interesting infographic here on broadband from

This site ranks India 134th on world index of broadband speeds. We are way way behind in when compared globally. While the rank is one thing, our speeds are abysmally low.

One data point that is not given is the penetration level. The answer will be no different. Our country is still grappling in providing electricity supply to all, so broadband is definitely a distant objective in the list of priorities.

As has been argued in several papers, the rise of internet as an important tool, especially for small and medium level businesses. While there continues to be a debate on whether their is a direct correlation between broadband penetration and GDP, I do not think there is any doubt on the importance of broadband per se.

In fact, for countries like India, broadband should be given priority right after electricity. 

Let's hope the new Government ushers in a broadband revolution as well :)

Feb 16, 2014

Real cost of corruption - One aspect.

There are several news articles speaking of road accidents in India. It is indeed a big problem. The latest report that Indian cars failed crash tests is making news. May be Indian government will mandate these tests as well. Wonderful so far.

There is also an extended discussion on stricter enforcement of laws, clampdown on drunk driving and so on. All this is good. But have we thought of the genesys of rash driving? I am sure majority of these same drunk, careless, arrogant, out-of-control drivers have a valid driving licence. Where does that licence come from? How is it given? Here is a quick process summary of obtaining a driving licence.

Option 1)
A. Go to local RTO office.
B. Appear and pass the learner's licence test where your knowledge of rules are tested.
C. Learn the vehicle and appear for driving test.
D. Get a licence.


Option 2)
Till some years ago, go to one of the many thousands of driving school with your address and identity proof.
(Even today, after the computerised learner's licence test, do the above.)

Naturally, majority people take option 2. It is convenient. The test is a breeze. A few feet ahead, a few feet in reverse, voila you have a licence. You feel happy! Happiness is good for health...but perhaps not in this case.


How would you like to learn that the doctor treating someone near to you was a quack and responsible for deteriorating health of the patient? Is this not similar albeit in a different context?

Read this article from The New York Times on the FDA worry on Indian Pharma. The article says India exports about 40 percent of over-the-counter & generic medicines in the US. And what does India do about ensuring that the quality served to this largest consumer base is good and as per, if not better than, the standards? Make no mistake, we are not a banana republic. We have drug regulatory body called CDSCO, but as an industry have Indian Pharma companies tried to enforce those regulations in spirit? Or are we the happy driver with the freshly issued driving license? We will drive until we run over someone by the pavement?

And our regulatory body will continue to look away as long as the authorities that be keep saying this is the industry that brings in USD 15 Billion (INR 90000 Crores) a year. This looking away implies economic profit to those benefiting from it and penalizing companies that are voluntarily ensuring compliance to the FDA standards.

But the heavy cost that India pays as the damage to its image is something that cannot be measured easily - the factors to be measured are the penalties, lossof market share, loss of licenses. These are to the corporation, also to be added are the costs of additional scrutiny, loss of jobs, increase in social issues in those areas due to these issues, decrease in confidence on Indian industry as a whole. That is the real cost of corruption.

Jan 1, 2014

Le Carre's Smiley and the other trilogy.

The reading this year comprised mainly of fiction books. Couple of trilogies and a few other novels.

This year I completed the Karla Trilogy from John Le Carre after reading the Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. While Honourable Schoolboy was a good book, I thought Smiley's People was fantastic.
As fantastic as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Indeed the best book I have read in years.

I loved the insanity in the cunning that Smiley and Karla create against each other. I loved the fact that Smiley acknowledges that he and Karla are no more than each other's alter ago. Most of it, I loved the climax. Never expected it to be so stunning. Never was it so predictable either.

John Le Carre sits in an overlap of fiction thriller writer who imagines a lot about the espionage world and a literary master who knows the people about whom he writes. What a treat!

The other trilogy was the very readable Shiva Trilogy. I enjoyed Immortals of Meluha, the first part very much. The other two were alright. What impressed me was the amazing imagination shown by the debutante author Amish.Writing sure is a difficult art, writing with so much imagination on a topic which is so well known to Indians, is much more difficult. Amish stands out. And I hope we get to see movies made from his books. And I hope that the movie has good production values....


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