Indians need to acknowledge the safety factor

Updated: Aug 5 2007, 04:00am hrs
This is his first trip to India and Terry K Molstad, manager, Safety and Health, BC Hydro, cant seem to contain his amazement. While he had formed a picture of India from what he had read about its cultures and people, this trip is nevertheless a discovery, says the engineer.

He does seem well-informed about Indian newspapers. In fact he gives a detailed feedback on Financial Express. Then there are the TV channels and a couple of books, especially those written by foreigners like William Dalrymple that he mentions.

He says: Reading City of Djinns was a good experience; (it was) enough to suggest that the country has a good mix of things to look out for. He is fascinated by Indias complexity, which is wrapped in simplicity, its varied religions, different states, languages, seasons and, of course, its present economic horizon. The country has so many reasons to attract people, says Molstad.

But he doesnt miss the downside either, and the crazy Indian traffic is the first on his list. Back home in Canada we dont come across more than two cars on the roads. But here you have five, and each one is trying to overtake the other. There are rules, one agrees, but whats seen usually is the rush to reach somewhere. And then, it doesnt matter if you overtake from the left or the right, he says.

Molstad is in New Delhi to speak at a Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) meet and present Columbia River Development Benefit Sharing, a case study of BC Hydro. The Canada-based engineers presentation includes tips on finding suitable locations, applying best construction methodologies and proper benefit-sharing deals between stakeholders.

Speaking about his work, Molstad says: At the company level, we at BC Hydro are responsible for the health of our water, land and air resources. Our challenge is to find effective ways to minimise the environmental effects of our operations and still meet our responsibility to supply low-cost electricity to our customers. Finding this balance is not easy.

The size of BC Hydros hydroelectric system, and the many different biological, geological and climatic zones found in British Columbia, requires the company to engage in careful study and continuous planning. He figures that since the situation in India is similar, this exchange of ideas would be useful.

The hydropower company, Molstad works for, lays immense stress on natural resources and competitive advantages of clean and renewable sources of energy. Its new energy policy suggests all new electricity projects to have zero net greenhouse gas emissions. The company aims to acquire 50% of its incremental resource needs through conservation, by 2020.

The professional believes fast-moving developing countries can be energy efficient and execute projects sensibly. Where specific attention needs to be paid is the bottom of the pyramid. We acknowledge the speeding luxury cars on the roads, but we also need to find a solution to children begging at red lights. Similarly, we also need to find a solution to the fact that there is no safety apparatus for workers at construction sites, he points out.

Despite this being his maiden trip to the country, Molstad has obviously observed India and its problems closely. Lets hope our power consultants heed his advice. We could then possibly see a better tomorrow.

Jyoti Verma