Indian Freshwater Supplies Necklace:
Coastal Tri-nodal Multi-macroproject Proposals
for India and Its Neighbors
Richard Brook Cathcart
1300 West Olive Avenue
Burbank, California 91506-2225
e-mail Richard Cathcart
about Richard Cathcart
other work by Richard Cathcart
I anticipate an "Indian Ocean Rim Century" – how will the world's
publics recognize the IORC when it begins? Perhaps the truest indication
of the IORC will be obvious when crowded and farmed India, an ecosystem-state
where practically-speaking only the sky is still semi-natural, first attempts
macro-engineering the Indian Ocean's summer monsoon
climate (Mall, 2006). Macro-engineering the Hindi "Megha" linked with a
21st Century story sequel to The Meghaduta may become necessary
(Auffhammer, 2006); holding the land's albedo steady and reducing the Indian
Ocean's albedo – perhaps with a strategically-sited coating of connected
"Mega-Float" hulls (Shuku, 2001) – it ought to become possible to
prevent the Indian summer monsoon climate from destabilizing abruptly (Zickfield,
2005)). But, before that happens, or 2007 Nobel Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri
devises some other means, India must equal the national industrial capabilities
of its advanced global competitors (Nath, 2007). It seems desirable for
India (and some of its closest neighbors) to make a technological and infrastructural
"long jump" causing a subsequent mid-21st Century structural transformation
of the country and region's economy, effective and peaceful regional trade
relations, and strong and persistent future commercially integrated economic
growth (Hildalgo, 2007). Naturally, India's heritage will have to be honored
as well as sometimes preserved while fast-paced national modernization occurs
(Bamzai, 2007) and the inevitable macro-ecological changes must be continuously
and very carefully monitored (Kerr, 2007).
Here, I offer a comprehensive macro-engineering proposal that will help
industrialize India's converging coastlines consisting of three nodes of
necklaced intensive near-term future infrastructure emplacements: (I) contiguous
Tibet; (II) Palk Bay and (III) the Gulf of Khambhat.
On 1 July 2006, China commenced commercial operations of the Qinghai-Tibet
Railway, supplementing a poor-quality twin-lane road constructed along nearly
the same route during the 1950s, to bring people, cargo and military forces
less expensively and more expeditiously to Tibet from the rest of China
(Peng, 2007). There are plans to extend the Qinghai-Tibet Railway from its
current terminal at Lhasa to Xigaze and Nyingchi by 2011. Tibet is a notorious
international tourist destination (Mercille, 2005) and, more importantly,
it is the major resource region for freshwater consumed in Bangladesh and
India (Jain, 2007). The Himalayas are the most important northern source
of freshwater for the adjacent lowlands of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
However, storage capacities in the mountains are insufficient in terms of
collecting winter runoff for summertime use downstream (Viviroli, 2007).
And, furthermore, rivers on the lowland tend to migrate drastically (Radhakrishna,
1999). There is now, and will continue to be for some open-ended period
of time, an "alarming scarcity" of freshwater in India (Garg & Hassan, 2007).
A joint India-China macroproject and use of waterpower resources in eastern
Tibet could facilitate a mutually beneficial balance – or, even, a
long-term resolution – of geopolitical power in the Himalaya. A multinational
macroproject, composed of one inflated bladder dam, a shallow Yarlung Zangpo
valley reservoir, and a short pressure tunnel feeding a series of powerhouses
equipped with Francis turbines with falling freshwater, all capitalizing
on the sharp descent of the Yarlung Zangbo (also known as Brahmaputra River)
at a topographic loop, could supply Earth's two most populous nation-ecosystems
with a low-cost means of rapidly improving national standards of living
through widespread electrification (Cathcart, 1999). Such a facility will
also provide significant insurance against the supercomputer-modeled likelihood
of widespread "novel climate" changes by 2100 possibly caused by Rajendra
Pachauri's UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control forecast Global
Warming (Williams, 2007).
Competition between India and China over parts of Tibet's territory indisputably
commenced on 20 October 1962 and since that deadly military conflict, both
nation-ecosystems have mainly indulged in a lively diplomatic confrontation.
China has boldly contemplated – publicly – a freshwater diversion
macroproject that would siphon water from the Yarlung Zangbo near the town
of Pai, Tibet, pumping it across ruggedly mountainous terrain to the Yellow
River's headwaters in Tibet; China does need to augment the dwindling outflow
of the Yellow River but the cost of using electricity-powered pumps consuming
several tens of thousands of megawatts to do so from a remote site in southern
Tibet is wasteful, especially with current, non-superconductive electricity
The 1,790 km-long Yarlung Zangbo flows out of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau
near the 7,756 m-high peak Namjagbarwa Feng. A 42 km-long bored pressure
tunnel, with a fall of ~2,160 m, could carry all or part of the river's
flow through multi-staged Francis turbine power plants, annually generating
This unique power generation installation would very likely be humanity's
mightiest renewable electricity-producing facility. An India-China cooperative
Tibet macroproject would obviate any need for China to pursue an old-fashion
macro-engineering plan involving the detonation of several peaceful nuclear
explosions in the Himalayas bruited during the December 1995 Beijing meeting
of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics. India's astute macro-engineers
have relevant practical experience in Himalayan tunneling and foreign advice
is available from Switzerland's contract tunnel experts who have undertaken
the New Transalpine Railway Lines planning and excavation (Samuel, 2002).
What if India-China macro-engineers opt to co-operatively emplace a simple
low-rise inflated dam at the key site at Pai upstream of the Yarlung Zangbo's
loop (Singh, 2006)? A 10 m-tall inflated nylon-reinforced rubber bladder
– it can be filled with air or freshwater and have a length of ~100
m – securely anchored to a rock-locked steel-reinforced concrete river-spanning
base-plate will induce a shallow freshwater reservoir to quickly accumulate
at and upstream of Pai. As a consequence, ~0% up to 100% of the river's
average 4,160 m3/second flow could be diverted through the pressure
tunnel's controlling head-gate. It is commonly alleged that a 21st Century
anthropogenic atmospheric global warming will cause enhanced glacier melting
in the Himalayas and, thereby, increase the outflow of all Himalayan rivers
(Barnett, 2005). Natural and artificial freshwater flow fluctuations mean
the pressure tunnel must be very well designed, dug and defended by a strong
impermeable lining. Unlike the Qinghai-Tibet Railway (Wei, 2006) which faces
serious threats from slope instability caused by on-going and predicted
changes in the active layer of the permafrost ground over which it is laid,
the impoundment near Pai with a shallow pool depth ought not to increase
significantly the local seismicity and rock slide hazard. Before the dam's
base-plate can be laid, the tunnel must be bored.
Imagine an integrated hydropower generation and super-conducting electric
power or even an extra-high-voltage transmission super grid netted throughout
the eastern Himalayas (Service, 2005). The more vociferous global warming
advocates beg or bully India and China not to use their affordable existing
coal resources the more self-righteous India and China may become when they
do jointly harvest Tibet's tremendous hydropower resource. India and China
are outer space-faring nation-ecosystems, both aiming to visit the Moon
during the early 21st Century. International cooperation of these two country-ecosystems
– both of which are remarkably dependent on ocean shipping to conduct
their commerce – will enhance Tibet's chances of becoming a preserved
and improved environment, socially and geographically. Such a socio-economic
outcome is much preferable to the current and ongoing dispute stemming from
China's independent completion during 1993 of the Manwan Dam in the Mekong
River's headwaters (Campbell, 2007).
Freshwater that passes through the final powerhouse at the base of the pressure
tunnel (as well as the others) will furnish Tibet, India and Bangladesh
with electricity and a regulated freshwater supply. From the powerhouse,
the freshwater will continue its natural journey to the Indian Ocean via
its present-day course (Clarks, 2003). Its flow, possibly increased substantially
by forecast glacial ice melting in the mountains, may make the long-standing
dispute between India and Bangladesh over the daily Indian operation of
the (2,240 m-long) Farakka Barrage on the Ganges River a significantly reduced
irritant in their international relations. Bangladesh is a peculiar deltaic
region where the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers meet the ocean (Mikhailov
and Dotsenko, 2006). The Farakka Barrage began operating on 21 April 1975
and it was constructed mainly to guarantee that the Hooghly River would
receive – however low the flow of the Ganges River might be –
as much as 40,000 m3/second of freshwater. This macro-engineering
decision was premised on the speculative geographical assumption that the
availability of freshwater in the Ganges River at Farakka Barrage in the
worst of droughts or dry season would be 50,000 to 55,000 m3/second,
and that the remaining 10,000 to 15,000 m3/second available to be released
to Bangladesh. I suspect that future Indian Ocean sea level rise during
the 21st Century – perhaps as much as 0.25 to 1.0 m – and the
advent of nuclear-powered dredgers may reduce India's requirements to maintain
its seaports dependent on the Hooghly River's navigation depth. Ancients
accommodated to or were overwhelmed by past sea level rise (Gour and Vora,
2007). In other words, the Farakka Barrage may become part of an international
flood-control system rather than a seaport maintenance device (Messerli
and Hofer, 2004). It may become necessary for the signatory powers to revise
their 1996 Ganges Water Treaty between India and Bangladesh sometime before
its 2026 expiration (Mirza, 2004).
Freshwater can be siphoned from rivers entering the delta that is Bangladesh
and be easily packaged in movable plastic-fabric bags – in effect,
very large flexible textile barges carrying a fluid low value bulk commodity
– that can be towed southward to serve India's coastal cities (Cathcart,
2005). Such floating textile bags, sometimes referred to as "Medusa Bags",
could be loaded/unloaded in 3.5 hours if freshwater were pumped at 100 m3/minute.
They must be fabricated of textile materials that will cause even empty
bags to floating; floating filled bags can be successfully and economically
towed at 10 knots. Employment of lightermen would increase markedly and
the urgency for expensively linking India's rivers in a single vast controversial
macroproject would decrease significantly (Misra, 2007). During 2007, the
Chennai Port Trust commenced building a "mega terminal" that may be adaptable
for floating bag off-loading purposes.
India's freshwater resources are becoming over-strained due to irrigation
agriculture and population increase (Kumar, 2005). India is a nation-ecosystem
consisting of >260,000 villages (Black, 2005). Many villages situated inland
of India's southeast coast – the Madurai-Ramanathapuram Region –
presently are served by tanks (Narayanmoorthy, 2007). India's geographically
distinctive "tank landscape" is created by the presence of many small streams
and their adjacent overflow lands that over a period of many years have
been laboriously dammed with earthen barriers; UK geographers have colorfully
described the tank landscape as very like "... a surface of vast overlapping
fish-scales" (Spate and Learmouth, 1967). Such heavily populated places
that are dependent on tank irrigation may refill such perennial freshwater
storage tanks during the dry season or drought period by using a fully developed
rolling freshwater-conveying plastic-fabric bag technology invented by Francisco
Alcalde Pecero (1941-2004) (Pecero, 1974). (Of course, freshwater could
be stored long-term in such transport devices if they were cheap enough
to spare for that dedicated task and such use would stop the spread of mosquitoes
such as Anopheles culicifacies and Culex quinquefasciatus
which are rural malaria vectors using uncovered presently tanks as breeding
places.) Pecero's huge tire-like freshwater textile bags could be economically
moved uphill from the coast by motorized vehicles or by already employed
common draft animals. However, Pecero did not outline in detail the terra-mechanics
of his device, which was to move ~100 m3 of freshwater at ~10
km/hour with the distributed tread pressure of his device not exceeding
that of the walking human foot (~0.3 kg/cm2).
Environmentalists will surely offer the complaint that freshwater derived
from the Himalayas, running through human-populated regions such as India
and Bangladesh are likely to harbor harmful and unique bacteria and other
organisms that must not be allowed to pollute or contaminate freshwater
supplies stored elsewhere. I quite agree! So, I propose that a well-manned
and efficiently structured organization deal with this incipient macro-problem.
For many decades it has been known that cargo vessel ballast water –
whether seawater or freshwater – acts as a vector for the transport
of exotic, and sometimes pathogenic, organisms (Ruiz, 2000). A cost-effective
method to rid shipments of freshwater of such deleterious organisms is to
pump bubbling nitrogen gas into the floating containers and the reliable
rolling Pacero Bags to remove oxygen which, in turn, transforms the freshwater
into a toxic medium for most aquatic organisms, which are extremely sensitive
to oxygen levels (Tamburri, 2002). Targeting unwanted and unneeded living
stowaways with a pre-shipment management option (deoxygenation) will prevent
all biotic invasions (Tilman and Lehman, 2001).
Not being a citizen of any country-ecosystem in the region under discussion,
I truly have neither the right nor the necessary facts to make any worthwhile
estimation of the US dollar costs of these inter-related and inter-linked
II. Palk Bay
India is constructing the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP), slated
for completion in 2008, in Palk Bay. On-site macro-engineers are overseeing
the rapid excavation via floating dredgers of that 167 km-long ship channel.
(Dredging was not required for 78 km of that total.) The SSCP will be a
well-marked, safe ship passage built to reduce by ~500 km the distance ships
must currently travel between India's east and west coasts. After its opening
to marine traffic, the SSCP will cause an increase of the extant intra-national
and international freight and passenger movement (along with participating
corporate profitability) of India's major tip-of-India seaport, Tuticorin
(established 1974). The estimated cost to achieve the SSCP will be nearly
2007 US$600 millions. I foresee that Palk Bay will likely become a major
industrial site (Cathcart, 2004), and possibly a unique source of methane
gas supplies for India and Sri Lanka (Cathcart, 2007). The use of methane
is a viable energy option for industrializing nation-ecosystems such as
India since aerial methane levels that tend to cause some "Global Warming"
have steadied in the Earth-atmosphere (Khalil, 2007). Viable new chemical
technologies, using either bromine or chlorine, have been recently introduced
commercially that can convert methane into petrochemicals such as ethylene
or propylene for plastics manufacture. In terms of global warming India
and China are now widely seen as greenhouse-gas emissions "giants"–
literally saddled with the increasing capacity to change the Earth-atmosphere
drastically (Cetron and Davies, 2006). "Responsibility" is likely to follow
"capacity" in the eyes of world-publics.
III. Gulf of
Densely population Hong Kong built two freshwater reservoirs in places that
were once part of the ocean. Plover Cove, completed in 1973, and High Island
(finished in 1977) reservoirs currently serve the geographically restricted
populace of Hong Kong. 21st Century India contemplates the creation of an
artificial coastal freshwater lake by the "Kalpsar" macroproject, located
on India's west coast north of Mumbai [Bombay] (Gupta and Sharma, 1995).
News reports state that the Government of the State of Gujarat has planned
to undertake Kalpsar's construction by 2011 with the prospect of its final
macro-engineering construction phase being met by 2020. Unaffected by the
proposed Kalpsar macroproject planning, the Alang-Sosiya Ship-Breaking Yard
will likely continue to affect adversely the seawater and seabed of the
Gulf of Khambhat (Reddy, 2007). Nor will the Kalpsar macroproject affect
known submarine archaeological sites (Kathiroli, 2003) or reduce the region's
industry-caused air pollution problem. Just what structural stresses may
be imposed by rare storm surges remains to be experienced (Jain, 2007).
The Kalpsar macroproject plan, only briefly reviewed in Elements of
Tidal-Electric Engineering (2007) by Robert H. Clark, remains to this
day a somewhat vague macro-engineering concept. The Gulf of Khambhat is
a trumpet-shaped gulf. Rivers that enter the narrowest uppermost part of
the gulf include the Sabarmati, Mahi, Narmada and Tapti. The highest tidal
range occurs at Bhavnagar, where the famous scrap-yard, the Alang-Sosiya
Ship-Breaking Yard, sits. The maximum tide at Bhavnagar is 8.84 m. The maximum
average power-generation rate of strong tidal currents in confined channels
is ~20% to 24% (Garrett and Cummins, 2005).
Exact technical specifications of the Kalpsar macroproject are not publicly
available yet. Apparently, the macroproject will be composed of a 64.16
km-long earth-fill dam joining Ghogha on the west coast of the gulf with
Hansot on the east coast, forming a water enclosure of ~2,000 km2.
Since freshwater could be transported from the mouths of the rivers entering
the Gulf of Khambhat, it seems evident to me that there is no need to create
an evaporating freshwater lake as a portion of the "revised Kalpsar" macroproject!
Why not redesign the macroproject taking this stricture into consideration?
In other words, draw freshwater only from the rivers present and not collect
locally precious freshwater in an artificial lake of ~16,791,000 m3
where waste caused by impinging solar energy poses a daunting macro-management
problem! Thus, I urge India's National Environmental Engineering Research
Institute (founded in 1958) to add my suggested macroproject revision consideration
to its task mandated by the 20 June 2007 governmental agreement to do fifteen
months of technical feasibility Kalpsar project studies. A 35 m-wide tidal-power
dam crest is expected to support at least a paved highway and possibly a
railway; a tidal-power gulf crossing would give major transport advantages
for coastal India and even, potentially, southern Pakistan.
As the population increases on and about India's arid west coast, active
Thar Desert sand dunes pose an increasing threat to sedentary humans, their
fixed infrastructure and domestic livestock. Even the finest topsoil, on
which food and fiber crops are nowadays grown, is ~50% empty pore space,
about the same as sand (Marshall, 2007). Quantifying the spatial variability
of net seawater infiltration for the Thar Desert's active coastal sand dunes
becomes critically important for accurately inventorying seawater availability
for planted microbial halophytes (Maxwell, 2007). There may be some instances
when it is desirable to quickly fix moving sand dunes without the employment
of surface vegetation grown by using costly, sometimes imported freshwater.
In that case, a novel human-induced process of causing the formation of
biologically produced calcium carbonate (calcite) in appropriate sand deposits
may well be warranted on some coastal land in India and Pakistan (Stocks-Fischer,
1999). Soil bacteria injected into sand dunes could, for example, rapidly
transform loose sand into sandstone; such an Anthropic Rock (Underwood,
2001) would cement sand grains together and furnish macro-engineers with
a means to consolidate sand and to create an obstruction to sand movement.
In other words, to harden dredged dyke materials for the Kalpsar project!
Application of the technique could offer the benefit of cheap-to-construct
soil retaining structures and firm foundations for various infrastructures.
One of the pioneers in the biocementation or lithification R&D effort is
Victoria S. Whiffin whose September 2004 doctoral dissertation, "Microbial
CaCO3 Precipitation for the production of Biocement", at Murdoch University
in Perth, Western Australia, set the standard for all future laboratory
The primary problem for those who follow my slight-imprint footsteps, when
considering India's active coastal sand dunes, is to discover and breed
suitable local bacteria species able to flourish in seawater pumped inland
and sprinkled onto the offending sand dunes to fix them permanently. Nourishment
of appropriate artificial colonies of local bacteria may be accomplished
by injecting collected and slightly cleansed urban sewage into the extracted
seawater flowing inland through photovoltaic-powered pipelines (Badescu,
Cathcart and Bolonkin, in press) urea is consumed by selected microbes voraciously.
V. S. Whiffin's biocementation technique is also referred to in the common
literature as "bacteriogenic mineral plugging" (DeJong, 2006). This technique
of cementing porous sand dunes artificially using calcite depends on flushing
a mixture of nourishing chemicals through sand to cause bacteria to achieve
biocementation. Rather interestingly, what such intentional human actions
also create is a subsurface network forming an integration of biological,
geochemical and geophysical event-processes (Ntaslagiannis, 2007)!
In conclusion, I advocate a tri-nodal energy generation and freshwater delivery
system for the extensive converging coasts of India that instigates and
stimulates a "long jump" for India and its ecosystem-nation neighbors (China,
Bangladesh). Such an instigative facility will form, in effect, a secure,
safe and plentiful water supply necklace for coastal India. I think such
a massive effort in future building will eventuate in the onset of the "Indian
Ocean Rim Century"!
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