Technology for safe mining is available, so what are we waiting for?


Mining is considered as one of the most economically important activity worldwide. Though economies of developing countries like India are highly dependable on its mines, but still it is associated with many environmental concerns and leads to dire consequences. However, remedial measures to combat such concerns are readily available through applications of modern technology.

Photo: Prof. KA Natarajan (third from right) unravelling the book of abstract at GTCE-2019

“Technology for safe mining is available, then what are we waiting for?”, Prof. KA Natarajan, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Materials Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bengaluru, said while addressing the gathering at recently concluded National Conference on Green Technology for Clean Environment, at Siksha ‘O’ Anusandhan (Deemed to be University), Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

The conference was organized by the Biofuel and Bioprocessing Research Centre (BBRC) of the University and attracted large numbers of scientists, researchers, academicians and entrepreneurs. Prof. Natarajan listed several environmental concerns, laying special emphasis on threat posed by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) on the environment, especially in mineral rich states like Odisha. He discussed about possible biotechnological interventions that could help mitigate pollution and thus, protect the environment.

Prof. Natarajan underlined the importance of optimization of microbiological species and useof constructed wetlands for remediation of polluted sites. He even cited some heavily polluted sites in the world that have been cleaned up by following such technologies.

The conference was presided over by Prof. Amit Banerjee (Vice Chancellor, SOA Deemed to be University) who also pointed out that reclamation could be achieved by using the right technology at the right time. Prof. Lala Behari Shukla, convenor of the conference and Director of BBRC, spoke about the renewable energy sector and role of microalgae in production of biofuels as an alternative to the conventional fossil fuels. This could help mitigate environmental problems associated with emissions of greenhouse gases and climate change, he said.

Interview with Prof. L.B. Shukla

On the occasion of the National Conference, we had an interview with Prof. Lala Behari Shukla. Prof. Shukla is the former chief scientist and CSIR-Emeritus scientist at Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (CSIR – IMMT), Bhubaneswar. With more than 39 years of R&D experience, 174 publications, 4 books and 11 patents, he is currently the Research Professor-cum-Director of Biofuels and Bioprocessing Centre (BBRC), Siksha ‘O’ Anusandhan (Deemed to be University), Bhubaneswar. He is also an editorial board member in Scientific Reports, a journal from Nature Publishing Group and many others.

1. Being the convener what you have to say on the recently concluded National Conference on “Green Technology for Clean Environment (GTCE-2019)”?

Our planet is steadily suffocating under the impact of different pollutions. The importance of green technologies lies in reducing or mitigating the risks posed by environmental damages and restoring the clean environment. The use of these technologies is widespread and continues to evolve across the globe.

Green technology provides alternative energy sources, facilitates with biodegradable products, encourages recycling, and promotes the sustainability and development. It also significantly helps with curtailing pollutions, decelerating global warming, and preserving natural resources either by direct implementations or by indirect effects.

The National Conference on “Green Technology for Clean Environment (GTCE-19)” aims to deliberate and discuss the innovative applications and advanced researches in the field of different types of pollutions, and their abatement and control among the scientists in India and abroad. We have received a total of 136 abstracts from different institutions and industries covering the themes of the conferences.

The themes are as follows: Water Pollution and Water Quality Control, Air Pollution and Air Quality Control, Land (Soil, Waste Solid) Pollution and Remediation, Ecosystem Assessment and Restoration, Bio-Assessment and Toxicology, Society and the Environment, Environmental Analysis and Measurements Sustainable Development and Environmental Management, Nano technology and Nano materials for environment areas of energy production, alternative and renewable energy supply, energy savings analysis, optimization of energy processes and the environmental impacts of energy production. About 150 participants and attendee have taken part in the discussions and give their valuable suggestions. It was very much successful.

2. There has been observed an upsurge in the research interest of scientists towards utilization of green technologies in the environmental context. In your opinion how far have we succeeded in implementing such technologies on a field scale?

The application of advancement of technology to abate pollution and protect environment needed urgent attention as per the regulations based on the standards fitted by different environmental agencies. Worldwide, many researchers are working in the area, giving their best to develop a clean society. But there are many parts to be need attentions. We need a comprehensive, forward-looking approach in which current barriers and disincentives are removed; appropriate incentives are provided; and fiscal, economic, environmental, and industrial policies are integrated and made mutually supportive. The goal is an environmental protocol that is friendly to both business and society.

3. Many of the environmental projects are only limited to lab scale experiments and end up with publications. What may be the possible reasons for their failure to reach the common masses?

We need to improve processes and products, not find better ways of disposing of wastes. We do not need to throw money at every environmental opportunity that comes along, but we must develop and implement methods to measure environmental performance and assess the contribution it makes to shareholder value both by reducing costs and by enhancing revenues. However, there is awareness in common people in the society at best needed. Secondly government agency should have open handed initiative to make reach the product to the common people.

4. As the Research Professor and Director of the Biofuel and Bioprocessing Research Centre, Siksha‘O’ Anusandhan (Deemed to be University), what you have to say about the current biofuel scenario in India?

The major sources includes Algae, Jatropha oil and vegetable oils, cellulosic materials, corn and sugarcane etc. have been under surveillance since late 1990s. Major drawback so far for renewable energy sources are continuous flow of energy of biofuel from a single one. Overestimation of potential of Jatropha oil, as a potent source has been identified and slowly rejected by growers and the planners. Algae, one of the most effective sources of biodiesel, production technique and availability of water sources has been under scanner.

The conversion of vegetable oil and food grain sources for biodiesel got thumb down indicator from many. The new addition of cellulosic biofuel as a second generation biofuel has abundant availability of raw material. But, it required a lot of research hours to confirm the best suitable technique and the best source for economically viable production system. Under the mentioned constraints, lays the hope and assurance for finding best source and technique to produce biofuel for the use of masses. As, the conventional sources of energy are drying up at faster rate, the alternate sources be explored, examined and implemented in no time.

Government has set up a target of 20% blending by 2017. Apex financial institutions like the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) and Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) have refinancing provisions to set up biodiesel plantations, oil expelling/ extraction units, and infrastructure for storage and distribution.

The Bio-Diesel Association of India (BDAI), is a non-profit national association representing the biofuels sector more specifically biodiesel industry as the coordinating body for marketing, research and development in India, encourage biofuels specially biodiesel and assure sustainable agricultural growth, rural development, energy security and equal opportunity for the masses with overall environmental protection. India’s biofuel policy exempts the biofuel sector from central taxes and duties.

While biodiesel is exempt from excise duty, bioethanol enjoys a concessional excise duty of 16%. Customs and excise duty concessions are also provided on plant and machinery for the production of biodiesel and bioethanol. These policies promote the biofuel sector. Though the policy mentions exemption of central taxes and duties on biofuels, sales tax, license fee, permit fee and import taxes still exist, hindering the growth and development of the industry.

5. How you and your team at BBRC, SOA are striving towards a clean and sustainable environment?

• All aspects related to Biofuels production and their processing(scale up to photobioreactorandraceway pond) are being dealt by the research group
• Biological applications such as Biological fermentation (BioAlcohol); biogas production, algae in food and medicines etc. are also being evaluated in addition to algal biofuels
• Furthermore, the centre will also evaluate other applied potential aspects for the use of bacteria and/or fungi in environmental clean-up programs such as Bioremediation, Bio-mineral processing for the management of solid industrial and domestic wastes and biological implications to energy sector (BioEnergy)
• Bioleaching of Rare earth elements and electronics wastes will be given priority
• Applied aspects such as wastewater treatment, synthesis of nano-particles etc will be the focus of the research group

6. Any message that you would like to convey to the current generation in relation to a clean and green environment?

• Young people should be involved in designing and implementing appropriate environmental policies.
• With the ever increasing use of technology and industries flourishing the amount of pollution in our environment is increasing at a rapid pace. Keeping our environment clean is a very important part of our lives in these days. It is important to focus on this as we have to make sure that the environment is preserved for future generations.


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