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Energy Saving through a Time Zone Change

By Unmukta Sinha

To help India meet the challenges of increasing energy demand, Toine van Megen, a long time resident of India, proposed in January 2005 a simple, straightforward and most importantly a ‘zero-cost’ solution of advancing permanently the Indian Standard Time (IST) by half an hour—from GMT +5.30 to GMT + 6.00.

The idea is that with a permanent advancement of IST by half an hour, the sun sets half an hour later (as per our clock) and also rises half an hour later. This results in a shorter period of artificial lighting needs in the evening while the need for artificial lighting in the morning would increase. But since there is much more activity that requires lighting in the evening than in the early morning, there is a net saving of electricity required for lighting. Since he made this proposal in 2005, Toine van Megen has been quietly but persistently campaigning for it and managed to get it taken note of by the Ministries of Power, Finance and the Planning Commission.

In 2010, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) set up a Steering Committee of which Mr. Toine van Megen also became a member. The Steering Committee assigned to the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) a study that was to look into various options of energy savings based on time zone considerations as well as Daylight Saving Time (DST). Their conclusion, published in a September 2011 report by Dr. Sen Gupta and Dr. Dilip Ahuja, concurs with that of van Megen’s: advancing India’s clock permanently by half an hour is the most efficient way (easiest to implement, no negative social consequences) to reduce the nation’s power consumption.

Their research further elucidates upon the extent of energy savings that can be achieved throughout India. They extrapolate an estimate of 2.72 billion units per annum on national savings (according to state-level data compared to 2.1 billion units derived in their previous estimate using regional data). While this amounts to a 0.4percent savings on daily consumption (using 2009 data) and may not appear significant, the real impact is on the peak load energy consumption of the early evening period which is estimated to be reduced by as much as 16percent. The proposal thus targets precisely the evening peak demand that India’s power sector struggles to fulfil. (Also, at Rs. 3.50 per kWh, this amounts to savings of about Rs. 1,000 crores per annum and this number will keep on increasing with enhanced use of lights, the overall economic growth and the increasing cost of energy).

Most Indians are not bothered by our time zone, apart from the Northeast where the sun rises around 4a.m. in the summer and sets well before 4p.m. in the winter, creating a two-hour time lag from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. This would normally require a separate time zone for the Northeast, a practice common in several other countries such as Canada and the USA. But the downside of such  a practice, given India’s massive population, would be chaos at the borders between two time zones; besides, the railways are not yet automated enough to handle time shifts mid-journey and this could induce major accidents due to human error. Thus, the advancing of IST by half an hour, while making no real difference to Gujarat, would benefit the whole nation, with an optimal impact in the Northeast. As their work hours become more synchronised with the sun, their lighting costs would reduce and they would no more have to work in the dark.

Many western nations follow Daylight Saving Time (DST), a practice wherein the clocks are advanced in the summer and retracted in the winter, enabling efficient usage of daylight and reduction in power consumption. However, yet again, with a diverse and large society in India, the practice of DST would demand tremendous organisation and coordination and may not assure energy saving; rather, it would increase hazards in transport/road mishaps. Thus using time zones or DST to increase daylight usage and hence energy efficiency was ruled out as the social costs could be greater than actual savings. However shifting India’s time zone permanently has none of these overheads and instead entails the benefits of both DST and separate time zones without its hassles.

Lastly, the increase in available daylight resulting from advancing IST, can only positively affect the stunted economic growth and development of the east Indian States of West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and the seven north-eastern states. Additionally, as the region begins to develop further and consume proportionately more electricity, the absolute power savings that would result would be substantial, and essential to its growth.

Thus, with all these considerations and no negative social, political, or economic impacts, the aforementioned proposal of advancing the IST from GMT +5.30 to GMT + 6.00 permanently was suggested. What makes the proposal even more enticing is the fact that it costs practically nothing to implement. A short media campaign is all that is needed before it is put in place once and for all.

The new Indian power ministry has a daunting task in the years to come as India reels under a staggering power deficit. With Prime Minister Modi’s thrust on infrastructure growth and economic revival, this issue is only going to exacerbate unless clear policies to increase power supply are put into place. Following a principle of ‘waste not, want not’, a more efficient utilization of power, especially during peak demand, would substantially reduce this burden. The ‘too good to be true’ solution of shifting the IST half an hour ahead to GMT +6.00, permanently, is precisely one that adheres to this principle; moreover, it can be implemented without much ado and will benefit the nation with almost immediate effect. The seed for this proposal was planted already in January 2005. Had it been implemented then, we would have saved already about 20 billion kWh of power worth approximately Rs. 7,000 crore. Let us hope that the new Government at the Centre finds time to look into this simple but highly effective time zone proposal that benefits the nation as a whole and for all times to come.

Unmukta Sinha is an intern at the Takshashila Institution

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China’s nine-dashed line in the South China Sea

On 6 May, 2009 Vietnam and Malaysia made a joint submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in accordance with Article 76 of UNCLOS seeking to extend their continental shelves beyond the standard 200 nautical miles.[1] The Chinese responded with a Note Verbale asserting “indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and its adjacent waters”[2] and attached a map depicting a nine-dashed line (also the U-shaped line) as reference to its claims over the majority of the South China Sea.


Chinese map attached to UN Note Verbale depicting nine-dashed line

Chinese map attached to UN Note Verbale depicting nine-dashed line


As a central component of Chinese claims to the region, the nine-dashed line necessitates a detailed analysis. It encompasses the main island features of the South China Sea: the Pratas Islands, the Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank, the Spratly Islands and extends as far south as James Shoal at 4 degrees north latitude. The genesis of the map goes back to 1947-48 when the Land and Water Maps Inspection Committee was created to overcome perceived deficiencies of Chinese maps which were full of errors and primarily copies of western maps.[3] Initially depicted as an eleven dashed line during the Kuomintang period, the two dotted-line portion in the Gulf of Tonkin was removed in 1953 after Premier Zhou Enlai’s approval.[4] Beijing has consistently refused to clarify most of its claims to the resource rich South China Sea and taken full advantage of the flexibility of ambiguity. China has used 2000 year old records of habitation dating back to the Song dynasty, fishing activities and centuries old survey records to advance their ‘historical’ claims to the region. Although China advances historical claims, there appears to be no historical basis to the nine-dashes itself. Geographic coordinates for the dashes have never been published either.

However, historical claims do not find any backing in the UNCLOS. Most international legal experts tend to agree that China’s legal claims to the entirety of the South China Sea are baseless and invalid. China has whipped up nationalist sentiments in the mainland and used revisionist history to revive images of the glory its ancient empires as the centre of the universe, laying claim to any territory conquered in the past, irrespective of when the conquest may have occurred.[5] Mohan Malik states that China has, historically speaking, as much claim to the South China Sea, as Mexico has to the Gulf of Mexico or Iran to the Persian Gulf.[6]

There exists considerable debate among scholars as to whether the nine dashed line is a claim only limited to the territorial islands or reflects a maritime boundary asserting Chinese sovereignty over the waters as well. [7] The reference to ‘adjacent waters’ in the Chinese note verbale referred to above had raised significant concern among nations with a stake in the region. However, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman later seemed to clarify Chinese claims drawing a distinction between “territorial sovereignty of the islands and reefs of the Spratly Islands” and disputes over maritime demarcation.[8] This suggests that the nine-dashed line isn’t a claim to the waters of the entire sea but a claim to the islands and reefs (also disputed by various nations) and the massive EEZs that they would spawn. It would also seem to substantiate Chinese claims of advancing maritime rights consistent with UNCLOS.[9] A Vietnamese scholar points out that the “obvious fact is that States within and without this region have navigated freely in the region’s waters for a long time” thus precluding any coherent Chinese claim over the waters based on historical rights.[10]

Nevertheless, ambiguity over the territorial nature of the claims persists, especially given the assertions of many Chinese scholars to the contrary[11] and aggressive action taken by Chinese vessels in international waters, a case in point being the incident involving the INS Arihant in Dec 2011. Based on the above evidence, it seems difficult to come to a conclusion as to whether to analyse the dispute as a territorial or maritime one. China’s forcible de-facto occupation of reefs and islands such as Scarborough Shoal (after the Philippines was forced to back down in the face of Chinese show of force) could be part of a long-term strategy to prove sovereignty over the structures in the sea and gain rights to the resulting EEZ. However, their intentional ambiguity in statements indicates that China wishes to leave open the option to publicly assert a maritime boundary at a more opportune time.


Note: A recent map published by the SinoMap Press, which is under the jurisdiction of the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping published a 10-dashed line, with an extra dash around Taiwan. The primary effect of the extra dash appears to be a symbolic attempt to diminish differences with Taiwan and “realign claims along a common nationalist axis”[12] without altering the main 9 dashes.


[1] Malaysia-Socialist Republic of Vietnam Joint Sub-mission to the Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf”,

May 2009

[2] Chinese Note Verbale, CML/17/2009 7 May 2009

[3] Li Jinming, Li Dexia, “The Dotted Line on the Chinese Map of the South China Sea: A Note”, Ocean Development and International Law, 34:287-295, 2003

[4] ibid

[5] Historical Fiction: China’s South China Sea Claims, Mohan Malik

[6] Ibid

[7] Li & Li

[8] Clarification for China’s Claim, The Diplomat

[9] Ibid.

[10] (Vietnam) Zhi Mei (translated by Dai Kelai), “Yige wuli de ‘lishi zhuquan’ yaoqiu” [An

Unreasonable Claim of the “Historic Sovereignty”], [Journal

of China’s Southeast Asian Studies], Vol. 4 (1995)

[11] Li & Li

[12] “China’s new map: just another dash?”, aspistrategist.org,

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Oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea

Expected rise in Asian energy consumption

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects total liquid fuels consumption in Asian countries outside the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to rise at an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent, growing from around 20 percent of world consumption in 2008 to over 30 percent of world consumption by 2035. Similarly, non-OECD Asia natural gas consumption grows by 3.9 percent annually, from 10 percent of world gas consumption in 2008 to 19 percent by 2035. EIA expects China to account for 43 percent of that growth.

With Southeast Asian domestic oil production projected to stay flat or decline as consumption rises, the need for access to imported/offshore oil sources will become greater. China in particular promotes the use of natural gas as a preferred energy source and set an ambitious target of increasing the share of natural gas in its energy mix from 3 percent to 10 percent by 2020.

How much oil and gas in the SCS? Varying estimates:

It is difficult to determine the amount of oil and natural gas in the South China Sea because of under-exploration and territorial disputes

EIA estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Conventional hydrocarbons mostly reside in undisputed territory.

USGS estimates may contain anywhere between 5 and 22 billion barrels of oil and between 70 and 290 trillion cubic feet of gas in as-yet undiscovered resources (not including the Gulf of Thailand and other areas adjacent to the South China Sea. These additional resources are not considered commercial reserves at this time because it is unclear how economically feasible it would be to extract them)

In November 2012, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) estimated the area holds around 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in undiscovered resources, although independent studies have not confirmed this figure.

Cnooc’s figures for South China Sea reserves are higher than earlier forecasts from the US Geological Survey, and within the range of previous estimates from China’s Ministry of Land and Resources. Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie says there are currently 2.5bn barrels of oil equivalent of proven oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, a tiny fraction of the potential unproven resources estimated by Cnooc.

The Chinese Land and Resources Ministry is the most bullish, putting the figure at 400 billion barrels of oil and 20 trillion cubic meters of gas, although without citing sources. That would equal half of the oil reserves of the entire Middle East and a quarter of its natural gas reserves

Details of EIA Assessment:

EIA estimates the region around the Spratly Islands to have virtually no proved or probable oil reserves

Evidence suggests that most of these resources are likely located in the contested Reed Bank at the northeast end of the Spratlys, which is claimed by China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The Philippines began exploring the area in 1970 and discovered natural gas in 1976. U.S.-based Sterling Energy won the concession in 2002, and U.K.-based Forum Energy acquired the concession in 2005 and became its operator. However, Chinese objections halted further development, and the concession remains undeveloped.

The Paracel island territory does not have significant discovered conventional oil and gas fields and thus has no proved or probable reserves. Geologic evidence suggests the area does not have significant potential in terms of conventional hydrocarbons.

EIA’s analysis shows that most fields containing discovered oil and natural gas are clustered in uncontested parts of the South China Sea, close to shorelines of the coastal countries, and not near the contested islands.

Difficulty in Exploring

From an industry perspective, the Spratly and Paracel islands are interesting mainly because of the low water depth in the area, which significantly reduces exploration costs compared to deep-water developments. The islands would likely receive substantial attention from international petroleum companies were it not for political obstacles.

EIA estimates the South China Sea to be more viable as a source of natural gas than as a source of oil, so producers would have to construct expensive subsea pipelines to carry the gas to processing facilities. Submarine valleys and strong currents present formidable geologic problems to effective deepwater gas infrastructure. The region is also prone to typhoons and tropical storms, precluding cheaper rigid drilling and production platforms

South China Sea looks set to be rich in natural gas rather than oil. Also, the gas often comes with a high CO2 content. As gas incurs considerably more transport costs than oil, a relatively high gas price and regional cooperation are in order to render gas development profitable.


The estimates of energy reserves in the SCS are too varied to be able to draw definite conclusions from. The assessments of the surveys seem self-serving in a way – China benefits by exaggerating claims of energy reserves, and the converse for the US.

Some commentators say that the oil and gas resources are not likely to become a major source of conflict. ‘Rather, they function as political symbols, as material for political actors to rationalize a nationalist strategy and to crystallize conflicts.’ It is interesting that China chooses to exercise restraint over oil field disputes with Malaysia while following a confrontational policy with Vietnam, Philippines etc. This suggests relative disinterest in the oil/gas

However, I don’t think that’s entirely true. Although deep water exploration is not going to be easy, this is not just a strategic competition, energy definitely plays a part in it. The oil & gas reserves might not be as bountiful as touted and might prove commercially nonviable as well; but will still be significant enough for states to covet, especially in shallow waters. CNOOCs activity and investment in deep-water drilling technology is indicative of their interest in future deep-water extraction.

My tentative conclusion is that interest in energy resources, albeit an important factor, is not the chief driver of Chinese assertiveness in the region. Geo-strategic imperatives play a larger role in policy formulation.


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Toilets and Water.

Sanitation as a subject of research or discussion always generates a certain hesitation and an instant reaction from ones bowel system. We have often heard people commenting on a discussion on sanitation “Please don’t spoil my appetite” or “I am feeling pukish” etc. Most of us still don’t want to talk of toilets or hygiene. As a country of 1.2 billion people we have tremendous amount of diversity and there are people with 27 floor houses with access to the best amenities to people who share a room with 5 other people and lack access to most of the basic civic amenities. We love to glorify the economic boom in India spurred by the tremendous growth in the past decade, at the same time fail to acknowledge that across the length and breadth of the country 600 million people still defecate in the open and 12 % of the population still lacks access to safe drinking water. Our railway tracks, bus terminals, markets all have a certain stink which characterizes lack of civic amenities as well as civic attitude.

Lack of sanitation and safe drinking water not only makes poor people sick; it also shrinks their already limited possibilities by forcing them to stay away from school and work. According to the UN , each year, children miss a total of 272 million school days due to water-borne or sanitation-related diseases. Hence, eliminating open defecation and providing safe drinking water is not only about ensuring provision of civic amenities, but it is also critical for the enjoyment of numerous other rights, such as the right to health, the right to education, the right to work and the right to lead a life in dignity (Ohchr, 2012).

Government of India started a flagship program called the Total Sanitation Campaign rechristened as Nirmal Bharat Abhayan to stop open defecation in 1999. Since 2005 the campaign has picked up steam and revised its target making India being open defecation free by 2022. One can map the current progress of these programs in the below link:


Even though there has been significant progress in provision of toilets, still many families which have toilets practice open defecation. This brings about an understanding that it’s not only provision that matters but also a change in mindsets. At this point I would like to share a story of a program on water quality being carried out in India on water quality in schools through a task force called the “Bal Sansad”. UNICEF  in collaboration with the Government of Jharkhand launched a  pilot program to train and equip school students for testing water quality in their schools.  The group of students in this program first collect water samples from a hand pump which is located adjacent to their school premises and then divide the testing work among themselves and test water for pH value and chemical contents such as iron, chlorine, fluoride, and nitrate. This exercise not only promotes knowledge among children about the importance of health and hygiene but also serves as a tool to monitor water quality for the local government (Unicef, 2010). The involvement of children brings about a community level change as the families tend to get involved in the day to day activities of children and learn from them. This program made sustainable and a part of the school’s curriculum can inculcate a culture of hygiene and knowledge of water quality. Students learn by practice and parents through them. Similar program in school sanitation like the school WASH campaigns which promote the use of toilets, educate and train students in health and hygiene have worked well  in the past, but can we make it a part of the schools regular curriculum. Health and hygiene training in school as a regular curriculum following a practical approach can go a long in promoting an understanding of the need for toilets as well as the right use of toilets.

” Can Sanitation be a part of school curriculum to serve as a tool for change???”

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