[“That we are now at letter “A” and have reached words starting with “ap” over the last few decades should not come as a surprise. While we are grateful to the HRD Ministry for the funds granted, we urgently need more talented manpower. What must be kept in mind is that no project can match ours in terms of its historical and linguistic wealth,” said Bhatta.]
By Anubhuti Vishnoi
This project has already taken over 60 years, and could easily take another 100 years or more. Started in 1948, the ambitious Sanskrit to English Dictionary project undertaken by the Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Pune, is still stuck in the very first alphabet.
While the Centre has ensured that the project is flush with funds, those involved with the project blame the delay on the shortage of manpower.
“There are 27 sanctioned posts for the project. For 20 years now, we have been working with just three staffers. We have been requesting the HRD Ministry to allow us to fill the remaining positions, but the ministry feels we should appoint people on contract,” said Prof Vinayak Bhatta, director of the college and chief editor of the Sanskrit Dictionary project.
“However, for a project of this magnitude and gravity, we require the best of Sanskrit scholars with knowledge of all branches of Sanskrit and with a near decade-long experience in its study. Why will a scholar of that stature join us on contract? At present, with just three editors and another few staffers sanctioned by the Mahrashatra government we have a strength of just 10 people. Of the three editors, one or two are set to retire soon. At this rate how can there be much progress?” added Bhatta, who has been associated with the project since 1978.
“That we are now at letter “A” and have reached words starting with “ap” over the last few decades should not come as a surprise. While we are grateful to the HRD Ministry for the funds granted, we urgently need more talented manpower. What must be kept in mind is that no project can match ours in terms of its historical and linguistic wealth,” said Bhatta.
Admitting that the team is looking at years of mounting work before it can give the world the most comprehensive encyclopaedic language dictionary for the early Aryan language, Bhatta added: “Give me 50-100 scholars and I will finish the project in no time”.
Meanwhile, the HRD ministry is pushing for complete digitisation of the project. Plodding at some 1,540 Sanskrit texts including the Vedas and Upanishads, the Centre has culled out a staggering 1 crore references to various Sanskrit words. These references are jotted down carefully on brittle paper ‘slips’. After a special grant of Rs 5 crore for
in the Union Budget in 2008, Rs 2.5 crore has been set aside for digitisation
of these slips. Deccan College
Over the last few decades, eight volumes of the dictionary — all dealing with words beginning with the first alphabet — have been published. The HRD Ministry wants these to be digitised as well.
[Air-conditioning gases are regulated primarily though a 1987 treaty called the Montreal Protocol, created to protect the ozone layer. It has reduced damage to that vital shield, which blocks cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, by mandating the use of progressively more benign gases. The oldest CFC coolants, which are highly damaging to the ozone layer, have been largely eliminated from use; and the newest ones, used widely in industrialized nations, have little or no effect on it.]
It is cheaper than a car, and arguably more life-changing in steamy regions, where cooling can make it easier for a child to study or a worker to sleep.
But as air-conditioners sprout from windows and storefronts across the world, scientists are becoming increasingly alarmed about the impact of the gases on which they run. All are potent agents of global warming.
Air-conditioning sales are growing 20 percent a year in
and China , as middle classes grow, units become more affordable and
temperatures rise with climate change. The potential cooling demands of
upwardly mobile Mumbai, India, alone have been
estimated to be a
quarter of those of the United States. India
Air-conditioning gases are regulated primarily though a 1987 treaty called the Montreal Protocol, created to protect the ozone layer. It has reduced damage to that vital shield, which blocks cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, by mandating the use of progressively more benign gases. The oldest CFC coolants, which are highly damaging to the ozone layer, have been largely eliminated from use; and the newest ones, used widely in industrialized nations, have little or no effect on it.
But these gases have an impact the ozone treaty largely ignores. Pound for pound, they contribute to global warming thousands of times more than does carbon dioxide, the standard greenhouse gas.
The leading scientists in the field have just calculated that if all the equipment entering the world market uses the newest gases currently employed in air-conditioners, up to 27 percent of all global warming will be attributable to those gases by 2050.
So the therapy to cure one global environmental disaster is now seeding another. “There is precious little time to do something, to act,” said Stephen O. Andersen, the co-chairman of the treaty’s technical and economic advisory panel.
The numbers are all moving in the wrong direction.
Atmospheric concentrations of the gases that replaced CFCs, known as HCFCs, which are mildly damaging to the ozone, are still rising rapidly at a time when many scientists anticipated they should have been falling as the treaty is phasing them out. The levels of these gases, the mainstay of booming air-conditioning sectors in the developing world, have more than doubled in the past two decades to record highs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
And concentrations of the newer, ozone-friendly gases are also rising meteorically, because industrialized countries began switching to them a decade ago. New room air-conditioners in the
now use an HFC coolant called 410a, labeled
“environmentally friendly” because it spares the ozone. But its warming effect
is 2,100 times that of carbon dioxide. And the treaty cannot control the rise
of these coolants because it regulates only ozone-depleting gases. United States
The treaty timetable requires dozens of developing countries, including
and China , to also begin switching next year from HCFCs to gases
with less impact on the ozone. But the India and other wealthy nations are prodding them to choose ones
that do not warm the planet. This week in Rio de Janeiro, Secretary of State
Hillary Rodham Clinton is attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development,
also known as Rio+20, where proposals to gradually eliminate HFCs for their
warming effect are on the provisional agenda. United States
But she faces resistance because the
is essentially telling the other nations to do what it has
not: to leapfrog this generation of coolants. The trouble is, there are
currently no readily available commercial ozone-friendly alternatives for
air-conditioners that do not also have a strong warming effect — though there
are many on the horizon. United States
Nearly all chemical and air-conditioning companies — including DuPont, the American chemical giant, and Daiken, one of Japan’s leading appliance manufacturers — have developed air-conditioning appliances and gases that do not contribute to global warming. Companies have even erected factories to produce them.
But these products require regulatory approvals before they can be sold, and the development of new safety standards, because the gases in them are often flammable or toxic. And with profits booming from current cooling systems and no effective regulation of HFCs, there is little incentive for countries or companies to move the new designs to market.
“There are no good solutions right now — that’s why countries are grappling, tapping in the dark,” said Rajendra Shende, the recently retired head of the Paris-based United Nations ozone program, who now runs the
in Terre Policy Center . Pune, India
An Unanticipated Problem
The 25-year-old Montreal Protocol is widely regarded as the most successful environmental treaty ever, essentially eliminating the use of CFC coolants, which are highly damaging to the ozone layer. Under its terms, wealthier countries shift away from each harmful gas first, and developing countries follow a decade or more later so that replacement technologies can be perfected and fall in price.
Concentrations of CFC-12, which had been growing rapidly since the 1960s, have tapered off since 2003, thanks to the treaty’s strict phaseout schedule. In 2006, NASA scientists concluded that the ozone layer was on the mend.
But that sense of victory has been eclipsed by the potentially disastrous growth in emissions from the newer air-conditioning gases. While a healthier ozone layer itself leads to some warming, far more warming results from the tendency of these coolant gases to reflect back heat radiating off the Earth.
When the treaty set its rules in the mid-1980s, global warming was poorly understood, the cooling industry was anchored in the West, and demand for cooling was minuscule in developing nations.
That has clearly changed.
Jayshree Punjabi, a 40-year-old from
, was shopping for an air-conditioner at Vijay Sales in
Mumbai on a recent afternoon. She bought her first one 10 years ago and now has
three. “Now almost every home in Surat has more than one,” she said. “The children see them on
television and demand them.” Surat
Refrigeration is also essential for these countries’ shifting food supplies. “When I was a kid in
, veggies came from vendors on the street; now they all
come from the supermarket,” said Atul Bagai, an Indian citizen who is the
United Nations ozone program’s coordinator for Delhi South Asia.
In 2011, 55 percent of new air-conditioning units were sold in the Asia Pacific region, and the industry’s production has moved there. Last year, China built more than 70 percent of the world’s household air-conditioners, for domestic use and export. The most common coolant gas is HCFC-22. In 2010,
produced about seven times the amount of that gas as the China . United States
With inexpensive HCFC-22 from
the market, efforts to curb or eliminate its use have been undercut, even in
the . For
example, although American law now forbids the sale of new air-conditioners
containing HCFC, stores have started selling empty components that can be
filled with the cheap gas after installation, enabling its continued use. United
Trying to Adapt the Treaty
During a four-day meeting in
in April, about 200 representatives attending the
protocol’s executive committee meeting clashed over how to adapt to the
changing circumstances. Should they be concerned with ozone protection, climate
change or both? Montreal
As developing countries submitted plans to reduce reliance on HCFCs in order to win United Nations financing for the transition, delegations from richer nations rejected proposals that relied on HFCs, because of their warming effect.
raised a proposal that countries should use only compounds
with low impact on global warming. Canada
Phasing out HFCs by incorporating them into the treaty is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce global warming, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.
, India and China object that this could slow development and cost too much.
All the acceptable substitutes under development for air-conditioners are
either under patent, demand new equipment or require extensive new regulation
and testing procedures. “This appears simple, but it’s not standard, and it
imposes a new burden,” said Wang Yong, of the Chinese delegation. Brazil
Said Suely Carvalho, the Brazilian-born chief of the United Nations Development Program’s Montreal Protocol and Chemicals Unit: “The developing countries are already struggling to phase out, and now you tell them, ‘Don’t do what we did.’ You can see why they’re upset.”
Commercial interests foster the stalemate. Though the protocol aggressively reduces the use of HCFC-22 for cooling, it restricts production on a slower, more lenient timetable, and as a result, output has grown more than 60 percent in the past decade. Even in the
, HCFC-22 is still profitably manufactured for use in older
appliances, export and a few other industrial purposes that do not create
significant emissions, like making Teflon. United States
Politically influential manufacturers like Gujarat Fluorochemicals in India, Zhejiang Dongyang Chemical Company in
and Quimbasicos in China (of which Honeywell owns 49 percent) have prospered by
producing the coolant. They even receive lucrative subsidies from the United
Nations for making it. Mexico
For their part, manufacturers are reluctant to hurry to market new technologies that are better for the climate, until they get a stronger signal of which ones countries will adopt, said Mack McFarland, an atmospheric scientist with DuPont.
Othmar Schwank, a Swiss environmental consultant who has advised the United Nations, said: “In many countries, these targets will be very difficult to achieve. With appliances growing in
and India , everyone is making money, so they want to delay this as
much as possible.” China
The Montreal Protocol originally gave the developing countries until 2040 to get rid of HCFCs, but its governing board accelerated that timetable in 2007. “We saw consumption going through the roof,” said Markus Wypior, of the German government agency GIZ Proklima. The new schedule says developing countries must “stabilize” consumption of HCFCs by Jan. 1, and reduce it by 10 percent by 2015.
But the industry is growing so fast that meeting the targets, which were based on consumption in 2009-10, would now require a 40 percent reduction from current use in
. Many countries, including India , are trying to satisfy their 2013 mandate with one-time
fixes that do not involve the cooling sector — for example, replacing HCFC-22
with another gas in making foam. Meeting the next reduction target, in 2015, is
expected to be much harder. India
In the meantime, the Montreal Protocol has started using its limited tools to prod developing countries moving from HCFCs toward climate-friendly solutions, offering a 25 percent bonus payment for plans that create less warming. Experts say that is not sufficient incentive for the drastic changes needed in machine design, servicing, manufacturing and regulation.
Promising technologies wait, stalled in the wings. In China and a few other countries, room air-conditioners using hydrocarbons — which cause little warming or ozone depletion — are already coming off assembly lines in small numbers but have not yet been approved for sale, in part because the chemicals are flammable.
Yet in Europe, refrigerators that cool with hydrocarbons have been in use for years, and some companies in the United States, like Pepsi andBen and Jerry’s, have recently converted in-store coolers from HFCs to hydrocarbons as part of sustainability plans.
In a statement, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said it had recently approved some of the new climate-friendly gases for car air-conditioning and refrigerators and is “evaluating additional alternatives for other air-conditioning applications,” most notably a newer HFC variant called R32.
But when will they be on the market? Even small steps forward have been frustrated.
Last year the European Union began requiring automakers to use climate-friendly coolants in cars, considered a relatively simple transition. A chemical called 1234yf was deemed suitable, and the tiny amounts of coolant in car air-conditioners make flammability and high cost less of a deterrent.
But this year, the European Union postponed the plan: Chinese factories that make the compound are still in the process of obtaining government registration. The patent, owned by Honeywell, is being disputed. And the German government has still not finished safety testing.
Said Mr. Wypior, whose agency is trying to promote climate-friendly air-conditioning industries in
and India : “The technologies are available. They’re well known.
They’re proven — though not at scale. So why aren’t we moving?” China