Development of Mineral and Energy Resources Problems, Conservation of Resources, Energy Resources, Growing Production and Consumption of Electricity Part 6

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Problems

There are various problems posed by mineral extraction. The major problems are as follows:

Depletion of Minerals: Due to the excessive exploitation, many minerals are going to be depleted in near future. So, it calls for conservation and judicious utilisation.

Ecological Problems: Mineral extraction has led to serious environmental problems. Rapidly growing mining activity has rendered large agricultural tracts almost useless. Natural vegetation has been removed from vast tracts. Such areas suffer from frequent floods and for want of proper drainage; they have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes spreading malaria with vengeance. In hilly mining areas landslide is a common phenomenon taking toll of life, cattle, and property. In many mines, miners have to work under most hazardous conditions. Hundreds of lives are lost each year by fire in coal mines and due to occasional flooding. Occurrence of poisonous gas in pockets of mines is a great enemy of miners.

Pollution: Many mineral producing areas lead to air and water pollution in the surrounding region which in turn lead to various health hazards.

Social Problems: New discoveries of minerals often lead to displacement of people. As many tribal areas are rich in minerals, the tribal people are most affected. Industrialisation of such areas has badly shattered their economy, values, and lifestyles.

Conservation of Resources

In a world of diminishing resources, it becomes essential that the mineral resources should be judiciously used by the present generation to ensure a resource base for future generations. The strategies for resource conservation include:

Reclamation: Efforts should be made to reclaim various minerals as much as possible. This can be done by using latest technology. Remote sensing satellite has rendered a great help in identifying mineral resources.

Recycling: It means reuse of waste in a production process e.g. (a) the waste papers, rags, used bottles, tins, plastic waste material can all be recycled to produce paper, newsprint, plastics glass wares, packing tin materials etc. This process saves the consumption of water and electricity considerably. Such steps can help to prolong the life of our depleted forest wealth. (b) Post consumption recycling- scrap iron from old machinery, automobiles, industrial equipment which is added to the charge and becomes cast iron or steel which is then shaped into a new consumer product.

Substitution: Due to the advancement of technology and new needs have led to many changes in the use of minerals. Products of petro-chemical industry have replaced the traditional brass or clay jars. Plastics now compete with copper for uses such as piping and with steel in car bodies.

More Efficient Use: It also helps in conserving mineral resources for long. Today mineral resources are used more efficiently, such as engineering and construction processes which make automobiles more energy efficient and aerodynamic.

Energy Resources

This is an essential input for economic development and improving the quality of life. It is very difficult to imagine modern living without the use of energy resources. Day by day the consumption of energy has been increasing. It is available in various forms in India.

Sources of Energy and Their Classification

There are several sources of energy. They are classified in different ways. One way is to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial sources of energy. In rural India even today, a large number of people use human labour or man power, animal power, animal refuge, farm, or crop residue as easily available and relatively inexpensive sources of energy. As against this, the sources of energy used in urban areas are commercial in nature. They may include coal, petroleum, natural gas, cooking gas, and electricity.

Another classification of sources of energy is based on their longevity. For instance, mineral resources such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, and radioactive minerals are all non-renewable or exhaustible resources. On the other hand, running water, the sun, wind, tides, hot springs, and biomass are all inexhaustible or renewable sources of energy. They are also pollution free.

Mineral sources of energy include coal, petroleum, and natural gas. These mineral sources of energy represent nothing but the stored energy of the sun. Hence, they are also called fossil fuels. Then there are radioactive or atomic minerals. They all cause pollution. Non-mineral sources of energy include running water, sun, wind, tides, and hot springs. The power derived from these is pollution free.

Yet another classification of energy is based on conventional and nonconventional sources. The former includes coal, petroleum, natural gas, and running water. The non-conventional sources of energy include sun, wind, tides, hot springs, and bio-mass.

Growing Production and Consumption of Electricity

Electricity is the most convenient and versatile form of energy. When, coal, petroleum, and natural gas are used for generating electricity, it is called thermal energy. Power generated from running water, is known as water power or hydel power or hydro-electricity. Yet another way of generating electricity is through nuclear fission from atomic minerals. This energy is termed as nuclear power. It is also a thermal energy but from a different source and needs highly developed technology.

In 1947 the per capita availability of electrical energy in India was as low as 2.4 KWH. By 1995-96 the per capita consumption of domestic power was 53 KWH. Despite vast improvement, this is very low compared to many other countries of the world. India is a country of about 600,000 villages. In 1947, hardly 300 villages had electricity. Now it has reached to more than 5 lakh villages. This became possible because we have increased production of electricity by about 85 times between 1947 to 2005. The installed power generation capacity in the country has increased from 1,400 MW in 1947 to 1, 18,419.09 MW as on 31 March, 2005. This comprises of 80,902.45 MW thermal, 30,935.63 MW hydro 38, 11.01 MW wind, and 2770 MW nuclear energy.

The total energy produced in 1950-51 was 6.6 billion kwh. By 1995-96 this figure rose to 415 billion kwh. Out of this overall figure, the break up for 380 billion kwh is available as the remaining amount of 35 billion kwh stands under the head of non-utilities. The production of hydroelectricity in 1950-51 was 2.5 billion kwh. It rose to 72.5 billion kwh in 45 years i.e. by 1995-96. The production of thermal power was not much different from that of hydel power in 1950-51, when it was 2.6 billion kwh. This is more than four times the share of hydroelectricity. The share of nuclear energy is almost insignificant in the overall production of electricity.