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Choke Point: India - The Leopard in the Well
Circle of Blue Reports
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Nation’s Ministry of Environment turns to Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum for help.

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Scientists estimate that 99 percent of methane hydrates are buried in seabed in deep water.

Though methane hydrate, a newly discovered unconventional natural gas reserve, is seen as an alternative to coal-fueled power, the technology for tapping deepwater supplies is not yet viable.

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Few places in the United States better understand the economically essential and ecologically risky accord between energy and water than this southeast Ohio town.

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The braided hard-packed dirt roads of Mongolia are a feature of the country's high steppes, the result of rain and mud forcing drivers to find alternative routes up and down long ridge slopes.

Paved roads are still a rarity in this country, which is larger than Alaska and where 1.2 million people – 40 percent of the resident population – earn their keep herding livestock.

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From outside the perimeter fence, the Oyu Tolgoi mine rises from the Gobi Desert in a wall of blue. Photo/Keith Schneider

Circle of Blue senior editor Keith Schneider wraps up his recent trip to Mongolia.

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A Chinese researcher reveals massive groundwater use at a coal-to-liquids plant in dry Inner Mongolia.

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Circle of Blue’s Keith Schneider reports from Beijing on discussions about China’s resource challenge.

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A huge country with a tiny population navigates the problems of modern development.

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Energy India Fusion Tables

Click through the interactive infographic to see how India, the world’s fastest-growing nation with the second-highest population, races to meet rising demand for energy.

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Mahanadi River India Chhattisgarh energy water shortage drought rainfall coal power plant river choke point circle of blue wilson center aubrey ann parker

Most abundant in Chhattisgarh and the neighboring eastern states of Jharkhand and Odisha, India’s coal belt cinches the nation round the middle, tapering off in its westward stretch to both the south and north.

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India Tilda Chhattisgarh irrigation canal system infrastructure agriculture farm farming farmer water food energy choke point circle of blue wilson center aubrey ann parker

Small-scale projects offer solutions to India’s water, food, and energy choke points. Still, India’s government seems determined to duplicate the frantic program of industrial development, economic growth, centralization, and one-size-fits-all silver bullets that China and the West are pursuing. The consequence is an endemic pattern of resource waste that is firmly embedded in India’s political system, causing economic and ecological havoc.

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The state aims to turn an old problem into an asset.

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Despite the push for renewable energy alternatives to address water and climate concerns, India plans to keep coal as its primary source of electricity. But corruption, bureaucracy, slow environmental reviews, and inefficient transmission lines are hampering domestic production and causing unstable power supply.

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Marcellus shale drilling site

A Duke University study finds methane in drinking water wells, along with two additional gases associated only with shale gas extraction.

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India Naraingarh Haryana Vinod Ashoka Gupta Shivshakti Rice Mill grain buyer production harvest depot trader seller water food energy choke point circle of blue wilson center j. carl ganter

In an attempt to remove risk from the grain-producing economy, India guarantees that it will purchase at generous prices and mill at no cost to producers every kernel of wheat and almost every grain of rice that its farmers grow.

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India Punjab Nawanshar Pam Sekhon Dhaliwal family farm farming farmer Green Revolution winter wheat rice paddies harvest crop cropland tractor poplar aspen electricity electric groundwater well pump flood irrigation water food energy choke point circle of blue wilson center j. carl ganter

Before the Green Revolution of the mid-1960s, growers in northern India produced an elegant feast of native fruits, grains, and vegetables. By the 1980s, Punjab and Haryana states had together become the largest rice and wheat producers in India.

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India Chandigarh Punjab Irrigation Department K.S. Takshi groundwater recharge rate urbanization well pump reservoir canal surface water food energy choke point circle of blue wilson center j. carl ganter

Home to 1 million, Chandigarh is considered the ‘cleanest city’ in India. It also has the highest per capita income, thanks in large part to the agricultural boom since the Green Revolution of the 1960s in both Punjab and Haryana states of northern India.

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India Punjab

Farm policies intended to remove risk from the grain-producing economy have pulled India from the perennial fear of famine. But inefficient bureaucracy and rampant corruption also promote the squandering of resources and a glut of food that is not reaching the poor.

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India water food energy choke point infographic graphic data coal groundwater scarcity bureaucracy

India’s resource problems are not those of scarcity, but rather of inefficient use and bureaucratic policies.

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After spending a month in India, Circle of Blue’s India team members debrief their findings.

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