Saturday, April 30, 2011

Make a splash!

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Apr 20 2011 11:53AM

As the mercury rises, a dip into a clear blue body of water seems to be the perfect way to start or end your day. Swimming provides comfort, helps you concentrate and is the best form of exercise. It increases your strength and flexibility, builds stamina, improves cardiovascular conditioning and corrects your posture. It helps in weight-loss, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stoke.

Take a dip to tone up

While exercises such as cycling and running strengthen specific muscles of the body, swimming works on different muscles simultaneously. It is fantastic for toning the upper body, arms and shoulders.

If you don't like the idea of lifting weights, swimming is a great option. The buoyancy provided by water gives you a feeling of weightlessness and supports you well and is hence recommended for people suffering from injuries, back pain, arthritis and disabilities.

Good for recovery
An excellent post-natal exercise, swimming strengthens abdominal and shoulder muscles that get strained the most when caring for a baby. It also reduces joint pains, blood pressure and discomfort associated with pregnancy.

Doctors often suggest swimming to women who have undergone breast surgery as part of the recovery process. It is effective in avoiding muscular atrophy often seen in post-surgery patients who adopt a sedentary lifestyle.

Just chill!
Swimming offers many psychological benefits. By regulating breathing and stimulating circulation, swimming helps release built-up stress and relaxes your mind. It is an excellent recreational activity.

A word of caution...
Still waters run deep so test them before you take the plunge. Do not start with doing laps straight away as that can be harmful. Start with easy breathing exercises and learning the basic strokes before you move onto swimming-based exercises.

5 Secrets to a Flat Tummy

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Apr 20 2011 11:59AM

You slip into the extra-tight black dress that accentuates all your curves. You love them all, except for that slight bulge around your midriff. Every time you look in the mirror, the bulge appears to grow. Tummies can be a bit of a problem, especially if you want to go in for those stylish designer European fits. Here's how you can keep it flat:
  • Stand up straight: Just maintaining the correct posture will automatically pull in your abs and make you look leaner. Slumping shortens your abdominal cavity, so your belly has nowhere to go but out.
  • Eat lots of fiber: Often, enlarged intestines are responsible for those protruding tummies. Fiber aids the body's digestion and elimination processes that in turn help give a flatter appearance to the lower stomach area.
  • Work those muscles: Create a strength training routine that addresses all the major muscle groups. By increasing the muscle in your shoulders you can give the appearance of a smaller waist. Work on your entire body instead of just your abs. Swimming is a great sport as it helps you build your upper body and stomach muscles.
  • Eat tiny meals more often: Rather than eating three larger portioned meals, spread out your portion sizes and snacks to allow for five to six meals per day. This will increase your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories and fat.
  • Drink lots of Water: Water helps metabolism. Every metabolic process inside the body is aided by the consumption of water. Also, water helps reduce the intake of unnecessary calories by helping you feel fuller.
Caution: The market is flooded with a whole range of diet supplements and slimming capsules that promise you a flat stomach in a few weeks’ time. Beware of such quick-fixes as they may cause side-effects such as diarrhoea and sudden bowel movement. Dietary supplements often contain the plant extract, Ephedra (also Ephedrine), which has been associated with dizziness, insomnia, seizures, strokes, high blood pressure, uterine contractions and even death. Consult a doctor before you opt for such remedies.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The sunny side up: An Overview of the Solar Energy Sector

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Mumbai Mirror on Monday, April 25, 2011 at 12:46:34 PM

A proposal to build the world's largest solar power plant in Gujarat funded by Bill Clinton’s foundation, another to make it mandatory for all the 3000-plus billboards in Mumbai to use sun's energy and a third to provide 20 million solar lighting systems for rural areas by 2022 - India, like in the ancient past, again pays obeisance to the Sun God for a brighter and more prosperous future.

But will the sun keep smiling on us?
Well, let's hope it does. The need to go solar is urgent. According to a The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) report, India's current electricity installed capacity is 135401.63 MW. Currently, there is peak power shortage of about 10 per cent and overall power shortage of 7.5 per cent. The target is to add 100000 MW by 2012 and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set up a target of 14500 MW by 2012 from renewable energy sources, 50 MW of which would be from solar energy. And keeping an eye on the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission’s (JNNSM) goal, 37 companies have been selected for scaling up production from near zero to 20000 MW by 2022 at an overall investment of about $70 billion (Rs 3,100 billion).

India recognised its need to harness the 5000 trillion kWh of insolation it gets every year to generate heat (solar thermal technology) and electricity (solar photovoltaic technology), as early as 1981. The sudden increase in the price of oil and uncertainties associated with its supply, forced the then government to even create the Department of Non-conventional Energy Sources, which later went on to become the MNRE. However, the rubber-stamping didn’t do much besides pushing people to opt for eco-friendly solar-powered water pumps instead of the diesel ones that each consumed 3.5 kW, buy solar cookers and heaters and a little off-grid lighting. But now, with more and more countries investing in cleaner technologies for power-generation, India too has started to take its position as a tropical country more seriously than ever before to meet its future energy demands.

Bringing light to villages
The tiny village of Tilonia in Ajmer district, Rajasthan (it gets the highest annual solar radiation) boasts of one of the country's most successful rural solar electrification projects. In 1989, the NGO Barefoot College demystified solar technology to the poorest of the poor, "who are barely literate or not at all, and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job". Since then, villagers have been trained to fabricate, install, use, repair and maintain sophisticated solar lighting units. In such areas, where grid penetration is neither feasible nor cost effective, solar energy applications are cost-effective.

In its bid to cater to such rural poor, the Indian government has proposed to install solar power plants on the vast swathes of arid and semi-arid land (since space is a constraint elsewhere) in Gujarat, Rajasthan, parts of Maharashtra, Haryana and Ladakh. Pranav Mehta, chairman, Solar Energy Association of Gujarat boasts of the 958 MW solar projects coming up in the state, “more than anywhere else in India” and that 83 different parties have signed 25-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Gujarat’s electricity board. Launched in 2009 and built under a 30-year PPA with the Punjab State Electricity Board, Azure Power's 2-megawatt photovoltaic plant in Punjab became the first privately owned, utility-scale power plant on the Asian subcontinent to help power 4,000 rural homes for 20,000 people. Thermax is helping to set up a 250 kW solar plant is set to come up in Shive village near Pune, making it the first village in the country to have its own electricity generation plant. And undeterred by the swampy mangrove forests, Websol Energy Systems has managed to penetrate even the dark remote islands of the Sunderbans in West Bengal and set up 20-25 kilowatt-peak off-grid solar plants for Rs 84-96 lakh each. The benefits have been tremendous. Since solar power came to Sagardwip in 1996, schools have introduced practical classes and computer education, health care and communication facilities have improved, more jobs have been created because a number of small and cottage industries have started their operations, Ravinder Tanwar, Vice President – Operations, Websol Energy Systems, said. 

But it costs a lot
It's the cost factor that is making large-scale manufacturing and usage of solar power difficult. Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology uses fine silicon-wafer solar cells that receive sunlight and convert the same into electricity. Silicon wafers in solar panels are expensive to manufacture. So when the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) makes it mandatory for utilities to procure 0.25 per cent to 0.50 per cent solar power, it has to factor in the manufacturing cost for the raw materials for its generation. At Rs 17.91 per unit, solar power may help reduce your carbon footprint, but burns a hole in your pocket!

To encourage more investment in the solar sector, the Indian government is increasing subsidies for solar projects (up to 90 per cent in some cases) and mandating that state utilities purchase solar power. Critics say the subsidies will not help till indigenous cost-effective solar technology comes in. Addressing an audience at the green energy expo, Renewtech India 2011 in Mumbai, Arnulf J├Ąger-Waldau, Senior Scientist at the Renewable Energy Unit, Institute for Energy of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, stressed on the need for sound fundamental research to introduce new technologies. "All market players expect that in the long-term the growth rates for photovoltaics will continue to be high, even if political or economic conditions could lead to a short-term slow down. The ongoing shortage in silicon feedstock, triggered by extremely high growth rates of the photovoltaics industry over the last years is providing a window of opportunities for accelerated introduction of advanced production technologies, thin film solar modules and technologies like concentrator concepts."

Club it with the rest
In their paper, Making Solar Thermal Power Generation in India a reality - Overview of technologies, opportunities and challenges, Shirish Garud and Ishan Purohit of TERI, propose that “solar thermal power plants can be integrated with existing industries such as paper, dairy and sugar, which have co-generation units, thereby reducing capital investment in steam turbines and associated power-house infrastructure, thereby reducing the cost of generation of solar energy.”  That may be the way forward for industries to use more solar power. As for domestic consumption – for heating, airconditioning, cooking and lighting – experts are looking at a combination of solar, wind and biomass energy to help bring down the tariff. The message is clear – clean is here to stay!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three fruits to good health!

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Apr 20 2011 11:49AM

One of the world's most popular Ayurvedic remedies, triphala is packed with nutritients and antioxidants that provide a wide range of health benefits.

What does it contain?
Triphala is composed of three fruits, namely Harada or haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Amla or amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Behada or bibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica). Rich in vitamin B complex, Harada is best known for its laxative qualities as well as being an astringent and antispasmodic. Amla, which is contains 20 times the quantity of the antioxidant Vitamin C that a citrus fruit has, is believed to soothe the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The vitamin A-rich Behada is good for hair, throat and eyes.

In the body, triphala functions as:
  • Cleanser: Triphala is considered as an effective laxative as it contains bioflavonoids, high vitamin C content, linoleic oil and phospholipids. It is highly beneficial in promoting the bowel movements, flushing out toxins and cleaning the colon that is believed to help prevent constipation, fatigue, headaches, haemorrhoids and  digestive problems. Triphala is widely believed to be a blood and liver purifier too.
  • Stress-buster: Recently, triphala has gained popularity in the West due to its reported ability to overcome stress, fight cancer, boost the immune system. A 2006 study conducted by researchers from Dr A L Mudhaliar PG Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Madras, found that the administration of triphala inhibits the level of free radical formation and corticosterone (stress hormone) and significantly increases antioxidant defense mechanisms in cold-stressed animals.
  • Nourisher: Rich in vitamins, triphala provides the body with a healthy dose of nutrients. It is believed to nourish the nervous system, skin, lungs, hair, eyes, and rejuvenates the tissues.
From improving digestion and blood circulation to reducing the risk of heart diseases and boosting immunity, triphala is a handy tonic for all that ails man.

Caution: People who suffer from diarrhoea must consult a doctor before taking triphala. Pregnant women are advised to stop the intake of triphala during the gestation period.