BENGALURU: In line with their mission to set up and sponsor research groups on identifying problems which require immediate resolution in the country, the National Institute of Advance Studies (NIAS) was awarded a five-year project by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) in August this year.
There are ten sub-projects under the long-term project titled 'Understanding the interaction between components of the earth and human systems'. “We have received 78 applicants already of which 11 research assistants and Ph.D fellows will be shortlisted. So far, five of them have been selected, of which two are junior research fellows who will pursue a Ph.D,” says R Srikanth, professor and head, Energy and Environment Programme (EEP).
“Science must be for the welfare of the people and that is what we are aiming at in this project. For instance, we will assess MoES’ weather forecast systems, early warning systems for tsunamis and cyclones, to see if they are actually benefitting people on ground. Feedback from our research will be given to the Central government for improvement,” he adds Research projects in EEP revolve around the Sustainable Development Goals. One of the other sub-projects will look at trends in atmospheric pollutants.
“Satellites in space can detect the sulphur dioxide released from power plants in places such as Bellary and Tamil Nadu. On ground, we can’t see them because it escapes from tall chimneys. We want to measure how far sulphur dioxide travels from the power plant,” the professor says, adding that air pollution and air quality data, is missing in India, and Indian researchers often have to depend on foreign data.
The third project listed will collect this data at a regional level. For example, the number of people living in a pollution-dense areas, the pollution level in the particular area, and the effects of productivity, and mortality rates.
NIAS will be collaborating with several other national institutions such as Centre for Environmental Health, Green Peace, Public Health Foundation of India, Centre for Chronic Disease Control, National Institute of Ocean Technology and more.
One of the sub-projects includes a polymetallic nodules program, which is something that has not been done commercially in any other country. It involves mining cobalt and nickel from the seabed, in an eco-friendly way to create self-reliant batteries for storing renewable energy.