Saturday, 6 May 2017


Autonomous State of Environment Reporting - ASTER
State of environment reporting is indispensable for scientific administration. It constitutes the base of development planning and includes analysis of temporal changes in the environment of a particular place. Environment reporting encompasses elements such as ambient air and water quality, ecosystem health and function, along with social and cultural matters. 

In India, the state of environment reporting is coordinated by the Ministry of Environment, forest and Climate Change. The national effort aggregates state-wise reports and publishes them online. This mechanism is cumbersome, slow and results in a history document. displays the state of environment report of 2007 for Kerala! The time lag (in years) for conventional state of environment reporting leads to a document that has little practicable use. 

Progression in sensor, communication and computation technologies makes available smarter options to generate real-time state of environment reports. ASTER is a prototype sensor network designed to autonomously collect geo-tagged, real-time biophysical parameters. Apart from contributing to state of environment reporting, ASTER will be invaluable for a host of sectors like agriculture, disaster management, public health, soil and water conservation, water quality monitoring, etc. The central concept of ASTER is a non-negotiable requisite of smart cities. ASTER implements the idea proposed in Kerala e Resource repository And Location-specific Advisory (KeRALA) []. 

ASTER was conceptualized and implemented jointly by Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management- Kerala and IET, College of Engineering, Trivandrum. The prototype, if scaled across one district will inevitably attract attention of the Government of India. Scaled across geography, ASTER has the potential to be the hub of research in data analytics. It is highly likely that Government of India will come forward to sustain ASTER.   

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Are We Sapiens or Stultums?

Are We Sapiens or Stultums?

It is a strange twist of fate that the southernmost tip of the Western Ghats, India, that used to receive almost 2000 mm of annual rain, split in two seasons; is now withered. The landscape (of Trivandrum - the capital city of Kerala, India) is now peppered with water kiosks from where citizens need to collect water. A hidden pointer to the prescience of people managing water resource is that the current disruption in water distribution system is the fallout of just one year of deficient rainfall. 

Today, in Trivandrum, the availability of petrol/ diesel is more assured than that of water. I am trying to draw a streak of comparison between two non-comparable resources to highlight the fundamental flaw in handling an increasingly scarce resource - water. The price of any commodity is inversely related to its scarcity. 

Multiple concerns raised over the last many years about dwindling trend of water resources apparently fell on deaf ears. Its pricing was unscientific. I do not know whether this can be listed as a 'price of democracy'? It is high time that we abandon knee-jerk reactions to adopt objective long-term planning.

The persistent inertia to discard silo approach in management and distribution of water resource (as primarily engineering issue) will only complicate the issue. The attempt of linking river systems to tide over the current crisis is a dire, knee jerk action. Although it may save the citizens from further hardships this season, will it be a permanent solution? 

We still continue to overlook ramifications of the current resource crunch on our franchise-less cohabitants and its possible future reflection on us. It throws open more questions.What are our plans if rain decides to skip the region for another year? What can be done to arrest further deterioration of surface and sub-surface hydraulics of the region? How can we change our lifestyle? 

The latter is perhaps the most challenging issue because notion of abundance of water is culturally embedded within the people of this region. One possible way is to rectify the above-said fundamental flaw. It will certainly accelerate the process of changing attitude towards water consumption. Bold decisions above petty considerations differentiates a statesman from politician

There are many things that can be done by each citizen during such testing times. Salient few are listed below:

1. AVOID using flush toilets - at least after micturition.

2. ADOPT traditional toilet soaps/ mixtures for bathing - they need less water to be washed off human body.

3. A total NO to wet washing of automobiles. 

4. Use and REUSE boiled water (avoid adding cumin or other ingredients to boil drinking water. This way, left over water can be reused the next day).

5. RECYCLE - Where ever possible collect waste water and use it to water plants. 
6. PUT AN END TO any  procedural hurdles that comes in way of repairing leaking water supply pipes.

7. BE CONSIDERATE. Place a pan of water at a convenient site in or around your house/ work place to help insects and birds quench their thirst. 

8. JOIN HANDS for massive replanting - Urban, semi-urban and rural areas need different approaches. One urban strategy could be to take help of school children to adopt identified stretches for focused action (details described elsewhere).

9. SAVE ELECTRICITY - Water pumps need electric power!

10. RECTIFY water pricing flaws -  Aadhar - PAN interlink makes it possible to adopt differential pricing of water resource.

11. PERCOLATION PITS - 1x1x1 ft percolation pits to be made mandatory on each 5 cents of land. Implement before the upcoming rains.

12. ANTICIPATE THE WORST AND PLAN FOR IT - Tomorrow we will need massive desalinization plants to meet our water demands. High incubation time for such enterprises makes it imperative to start working on it from today.

Changes in local energy balance primarily due to uncontrolled built-up area expansion has transformed the region (Trivandrum) to resemble like a huge furnace that radiates heat energy outwards. This will blow away any moisture laden clouds drifting from the oceans and reduce the probability of precipitation. The above statement foretells the fate of 2017 summer rains. 

It is not due to ignorance that we find ourselves where we are today. We have amassed money and lost wealth! It is foolish to expect to harvest wheat from fodder grass. Learning from mistakes and avoid repeating them is called wisdom. Nobody bestowed us with the title sapiens. We picked it along the course and has hence remained with us because there was no one to challenge our decision. It is better to learn from our mistakes and correct the course lest we lose the title and be forced to accept stultum.

Note:     Sapiens is the species name of man. It is a Latin word that means wise.                 Stultum is the Latin word for foolish.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


Trivandrum used to be enviously viewed as perhaps the only  Indian city with 24 x 7 piped soft water supply.  This is now history. 

Within less than 12 months of deficient rains the existing water supply system is disrupted. Two consecutive years of downpour deficiency will lead to chaos. I fear to visualize the state after three rain deficient years. Likelihood of consecutive rain deficiency is high. There are early reports of El-Nino this year too!

Turning back to the ground issue, today we are traveling on the road with a broken bridge ahead!

Sustainable development receives more lip service and less action. Isolated case studies are cheered, but the social longevity of sustainable transformations are seldom bothered. I find it difficult to recollect even one instance of long-term transformation.

Despite collective human intelligence, which has taken us to the farthest edge of our planetary system; we miserably fail to find a means to alter our attitude and behavior

It is disappointing to see how we continue to remain callous. In an economy driven by market, sustainable development no longer continues to be the in-thing. It is looked down upon as non-technical. 

Whilst it is not wrong to pin our hopes on ephemeral jargon and disruptive ideas, it would only be wise for us to realize that no amount of investment can turn cities smart, Sans, basic natural endowments like clean water and fresh air. When are we going to get our priorities right? Better late than never. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A Kendriya Vidayalaya in Technopark Trivandrum

I would like to propose the idea of establishing a Kendriya Vidyalaya for children of Techies in Technopark, Trivandrum. 

From what is understood, Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan will not be against sanctioning KV, Technopark, Trivandrum, provided physical space and infrastructure is made available.

Well That will stretch the "Harmony at Work" to "Harmony at work and Life".

ENTITY Model of Development - The Pragmatic Way Forward for Kerala

The world is at the cusp of another massive overhaul. Global drift away from a bipolar world and renewed efforts to regain lost polarity; coupled with rise of multiple ambitious nodes, makes it difficult to predict near future polarity.  Democracy and market forces are two attributes that survived multiple challenges and gained strength over time. Together they have undisputable influence in generating polarity.  

Despite deficiencies, system of governance that accords importance to voice of citizens remains the most preferred - at least till availability of new alternative. Market forces have flourished in democratic nations. Today market force, like gravity, is all pervasive. It drives human thoughts, actions and governance. For selfish gains, market forces assume the role angel guardians of democracy. More than 7 Billion human beings and innumerable other life forms are hostage to market force! 

Whilst risk acceptance and uncertainty are inherent to market force, vast majority of human beings are comfortable traversing safest path. Thrusting uncertainties on majority leads to grudges and occasional uprisings against market forces. Little do they realize that their efforts are like arguing against gravity. 

A profile analysis of market forces reveals a recent spurt that has led to a bulge in proportion of service sectors and contraction of primary. Left uncontrolled, it is matter of time before the bulge topples the system. Ironically since market forces drives human thoughts and judgment, we often end up focusing only the superlatives. Disconnect between our education system and prospects of graduates’ presents a classic case. 

Planning without prescience is like a conveyor belt. Progress goes around in a loop. Perhaps Kerala will qualify as the only state where the conveyor belts gets drastically redesigned; twice in a decade. Uniqueness bestowed by geology and geography limits the state in its ability to attract primary sector market forces. However, Kerala has abyssal potential in Education, Tourism and Technology sectors.   
Planning that treats Education, Tourism and Technology (ENTITY) non-negotiable will ensure sustainable development of Kerala. Successful development planning must invariably be participatory, transparent and achromatic. Schematic description of ENTITY model of development planning, which calls for more prescience and less perception is depicted below.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017


We are pleased to inform you the release of BIOTA - The Biodiversity App. The application was developed at the C V Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management - Kerala (IIITM-K).

Although BIOTA is envisioned as a holistic biogeography App; the released version focus on invasive plant species. Foresters, ecologists and researchers will be able to use BIOTA to report presence of invasive species as they come across. They are only required to collect a photo of species observed using their smart phone. BIOTA will geo-flag the information on Google Map in real time. The data concurrently gets appended on to a dedicated database.

BIOTA can be downloaded from Google Play Store. The current version (1.0) will work on Android devices. It was developed and demonstrated as a part of National Biodiversity Conference 2017 in February 2017 at Trivandrum, India.

Widespread adoption of the App is expected to plug a big gap in species modeling and thereby aid biodiversity conservation. In subsequent releases we look forward to make BIOTA more intelligent and include more species.