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Potential PhD topics

Faculty : Anand B.Rao

PhD Topics :

1.      Future of Microgrids in India

Description: It is estimated that more than 250 million people – especially in rural areas – lack an access to reliable electricity supply. Decentralized energy solutions in the form of microgrids have been able to provide the service, and some successful models have emerged. What is the future of such projects in the light of the current policy push to provide “24x7 electricity supply to all” – with the grid extension programs such as DDUGJY and Saubhagya for 100% electrification of rural households? What role could microgrids play in the changing scenario, and what policy framework would be necessary for the same?

2.      Cage fishing in inland water reservoirs: Assessing the technology options and their socio-economic impacts on the local communities (Co-Guide: Prof. Siddhartha Ghosh, Department of Civil Engineering)

Description: Development of inland fisheries and aquaculture is being promoted under the Neel-Kranti Mission (i.e. Blue Revolution) launched by the Government of India. Cage fishing is an important technical intervention with a potential to enhance livelihood opportunities for local communities, especially those displaced due to creation of water reservoirs due to dam projects. Many fish cage designs are available in different parts of India and have their own merits and problems. The proposed study aims to assess the technology options, and their socio-economic impacts on the local communities. The scope of the work will include field visits, structural design, building and testing a cage, building a decision support system. The candidate should have a background in civil or mechanical engineering or fisheries and should be willing to learn from the other disciplines.

3.      Clean energy Interventions in rural areas: Understanding the barriers, drivers and the dynamics of dissemination

Description:It is a matter of great concern that a large part of rural population in India lacks an access to clean cooking energy and electricity. A variety of clean energy solutions are available today with varied levels of successful deployment. These solutions are desirable on several counts, and hence it is important to understand the barriers and drivers that play a key role in the adoption, penetration and sustainability of these solutions. This study aims at developing an understanding of the dynamics of the introduction, adoption and penetration of clean energy interventions in rural areas, and evaluating policies towards sustainable access to clean energy.

4.      Reverse Migration: Understanding the potential, drivers and barriers

Description:  Reverse migration is a unique process which may have huge impact on rural development as well as the urban issues. What are the key factors that can trigger this process? What would be the role of technology and policy? The study would explore the various facets related to this process so as to gain useful insights for planning the development interventions..

5.      Solid Waste Management: To Recover Energy or Materials?

Description:  India generated 1, 27,486 tonnes per day of municipal solid waste (MSW) during 2011-12. It is estimated that 89,334 TPD (70%) of this MSW was collected and only 15,881 TPD (12.45%) was processed or treated (CPCB Status Report, 2011-12). This underlines the urgency of the necessity and potential for proper MSW disposal. Various options for waste treatment and disposal include aerobic and anaerobic digestion, vermicomposting, incineration, pelletisation, gasification and landfilling. One of the latest conflicts encountered in MSW disposal is that between energy and material recovery. This study aims to understand the various technological, environmental, economic and social factors that affect this choice and will attempt to build a decision support system to help the decision makers at various scales.

6.      Biogas Technology: Can it deliver the promise?

Description:  Biogas technology has several advantages from the local, national and global perspectives. For example, clean, renewable energy resource, health benefits from improved indoor air quality, waste management, energy security, carbon mitigation, etc. However, this “win-win” solution to various problems has not delivered enough, in spite of the deployment efforts by various agencies. This study would try to assess this technology in India – especially in rural areas, and look for the potential avenues in future..

7.      Modeling the future demand for bricks in India and its impact on resources, livelihoods and climate

Description: The production and use of fired bricks have been very popular in India and we produce about 250 billion bricks every year. So, the traditional brick sector consumes about 10% of annual coal consumption in India and contributes to equivalent CO2 emissions. However, new construction materials are being introduced and getting adopted in the construction industry. Today there is a growing trend to use “unfired brick alternatives” such as cement blocks and flyash blocks. The project aims to understand these trends and build a model to project the future demand for bricks (fired and unfired) in India, based on a variety of techno-economic, socio-cultural and environmental/regulatory factors and policy scenarios. Such model will be helpful to understand the impact of the future demand – shaped by the various factors and policies – on our natural resources, livelihoods and climate.

8.      Scope for technology intervention in the supply chain of NTFPs and NTFP-based products

Description:  The tribal communities in various parts of India collect and process/ supply a variety of NTFPs (non-timber forest produce), such as honey, herbs, medicinal plants, leaves etc. The NTFPs contribute significantly to their livelihood, although they are not involved in most of the value addition steps in the supply chain of the NTFP-based products. The study will try to identify the scope for technology intervention in the supply chain of NTFPs and NTFP-based products, so as to provide better livelihood opportunities to the tribal communities..

Faculty : Subodh Wagle

PhD Topics :

1.      Policy and Institutional Responses to the Impact of the Local Political Economy on Watershed Development Projects

Description: Watershed development projects are major enviro-developmental interventions, which are seen as potent instruments to achieve sustainable development. The success of watershed development project requires cooperation from a variety of stakeholders from within and without the watershed. The interests of most of these stakeholders depend on the ownership, access, and potential benefits they can draw from natural resources available in the watershed (such as water, land, and vegetation of different kinds). The 'local' political economy of the watershed development project is shaped by the interactions of these diverse interests, and ultimately determines the success of the watershed projects. This research aims at understanding the political economy surrounding watershed development projects and its impact on shaping the performance of the watershed development projects. Based on this understanding, policy and institutional responses will be suggested to ensure success of the watershed projects.

2.      Reluctance of Urban Citizens in India to Segregate Solid Waste at the Household Level: Policy and Institutional Responses

Description: Many researchers and environmental activists have recorded the deep resistance of citizens from different types of urban centres to undertake the responsibility of segregating the solid waste at the household level. In view of the difficulties in monitoring and enforcing the command and control type policy measures, the behavioural changes through behavioural policy measures are suggested as the way-out. This research plans to undertake intensive interpretive study for gaining a deep understanding of the perceptions and behaviours of citizens in order to investigate the relevance of various behavioural policy instruments.

3.      Addressing the Chronic Failure of Rural Water Supply Schemes in India: Applying Governance Dynamics Framework

Description: Rural drinking water supply in India is a story of unending and abject failure. Various policy approaches and institutional strategies employed to satisfy this basic need of a large section of population have failed miserably. Many villages once connected through different schemes have relapsed in the category of un-served or underserved villages. This research attempts to analyze the policy and institutional measures employed until now to understand the chronic failure using the Governance Dynamics (GD) Framework. The framework helps investigate the appropriateness and adequacy of the policy and institutional measures for addressing the core policy problem. The framework would also help develop appropriate policy and institutional responses.

4.      Systemic Integration of Water and Wastewater Systems in Urban Areas: Exploration of Policy and Institutional Options in Maharashtra

Description: There is a growing trend in urban areas to obtain water from distant sources through large pumps and pipelines. At the same time, the untreated wastewater created in the urban areas contaminates surface and ground water in cities and in downstream areas.

This paradoxical approach, apart from the high capital investments and high recurring costs in pumping and maintenance, leads to social, economic, political, and ecological stresses in the area of source, while creating unsustainable economy and unhealthy life-styles in the cities and towns.

This project will characterize this problem in certain specific situation and try to see what role is played by current policies and institutional arrangements (from both water and waste-water sectors) in creating this paradoxical situation. It will also attempt to evolve policy and institutional guidelines for addressing this paradoxical situation and its adverse impacts.

5.      Assessing Policy and Institutional Barriers to Dissemination of Solar Technologies in India.

Description: PV Solar solutions are seen as a potent solution for the problem of electricity access in rural India. Despite years of efforts by government and other agencies and diverse policy initiative, penetration of home-based solar energy technologies has remained dismal. On the other hand, with the major reduction in the PV and battery costs, the viability of solar solutions has increased significantly. On this background, there is a need to take a fresh and systematic look at the policy and institutional barriers to the dissemination of solar PV technologies. Building on the systematic analytical review of the past policies, the study will engage into analysis of these barriers to arrive at policy recommendations.

6.      Understanding Reluctance of Small and Marginal Farmers to Undertake Processing of Their Agricultural / Horticultural Produce

Description: There are frequent reports by researchers and activists that farmers are reluctant to participate in the processing of their agricultural or horticultural produce despite efforts by activists and entrepreneurs. It was also reported that farmers are even reluctant to organise transportation of their produce to markets on individual or collective basis and are ready to accept lower prices offered by traders who come to their farm sites. This behaviour cannot be just explained by the lack of information or similar explanations. This research plans to undertake intensive interpretive study to understand farmers’ perceptions and thinking that lead to this behaviour. Based on this understanding, the attempt will be made to evolve policy and institutional responses to address the situation.

7.      U nderstanding the Private Water Provisioning in the Last Mile in Metro, Medium, and Small Cities in India.

Faculty : Priya Jadhav

PhD Topics :

1.      Farmer behaviour and efficiency

Description: Along with quality of electricity supply from utilities, farmer behaviour is an important determinant of energy efficiency in pumping. Preliminary data from field shows that farmers indulge in energy inefficient behaviour sometimes to optimize their outcomes, sometimes due to misinformation, and sometimes both. A very simple example: farmers are known to remove capacitors from pumpsets installed in schemes s even though capacitors do not harm their usage of pumps in any way. This topic involves understanding the underlying reasons and hence identifying further solutions either of a technical nature, or interventions like awareness building.

2.      Enhanced water pumping technology: Promoting efficiency with convenience

Description :Several of the problems with pumps experienced by farmers in India - like varying water head, and low voltages can be addressed in the pump design.  These enhancements will lead to more efficient pumps and also add to convenience for the farmers, for example through fewer pump breakdowns, and better operation at lower voltages. The topic involves (1) an evaluation of potential benefits (2) exploration and development of power electronics solution(s).

Collaborator: Amol Phadke, Scientist and Group Leader, International Energy Studies Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

3.      Evolving new paradigms of utility service in energized irrigation through communication technology

Description: The cost of IOT (Internet of Things) and sensors technology has dropped steeply in the last few years. This is being leveraged to provide decentralized, renewable energy services in rural areas. IOT/sensors/smart technology, could be used to explore new paradigms in energized irrigation, like feeder franchisees, third party pump management, water as a service, and remote management services. Such solutions could address the use of diesel pumps, provide convenience and improved service to grid connected farmers, while yet providing financial gains to the utility and environmental benefits to society.

Collaborator: Amol Phadke, Scientist and Group Leader, International Energy Studies Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

4.      Frameworks for energy-water usage in agriculture

Description: This topic develops frameworks based on secondary data to identify water and energy usage by various crops in any region. The concerns of climate change, ground water depletion and skewed subsidy distribution among farmers of the different socio-economic strata, make this a very relevant current topic. There is very little quantification of this issue at present.

Faculty : N.G. Shah

PhD Topics :  "Traditional Practices in Indian Foods: Nutrition and Health Connection"


Faculty : Amit Arora 

PhD Topics : 

1. Scaling up evaluation and techno-economic analysis of fruit processing waste biorefinery 

Description: India is the one of the largest producers of fruits & vegetables in the world with an annual production of around 250 million tonnes. Quantam of waste coming from agro processing industries is quite significant. The by-products from these industries generally have high moisture content and are thus prone to microbial spoilage. The high moisture content of the wastes also leads to increased drying and storage costs. Thus, waste is typically used as a feed in order to minimize the economic impact of its treatment and stabilization and very few large scale industries generate biogas from organic waste. India is one of the largest producers of fruits in the world. Production and productivity of this fruit has increased quite significantly in last few years. This presents a unique opportunity for the production of biofuels, biobased chemicals and recovery of valuable components materials from pomegranate peels and seeds wasted every year. 

We have developed a lab scale biorefinery system which needs to be evaluated at a pilot scale. This project will focus on design and development of a pilot scale biorefinery based on mango and pomegranate processing waste. 

2. Development of a multi-feedstock biorefinery: Techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment 

Description:This project will focus on developing broadly applicable biorefinery technologies for discarded and/or by-products of fruit and vegetable  production and processing.  Seasonal supply variability of different fruits and vegetables requires that common technologies can be applied to multiple feedstock options to isolate common chemical components. Hence a biorefinery can operate all year around where different feedstocks are available. Development of an integrated biorefinery approach will provide economic benefits to the farmers, create job opportunities and more sustainable utilization of the agricultural produce (eg mango, pomegranates, lupin crop residues, bananas, pineapple). Important issue is to appreciate that a balance needs to be established between maintaining soil health (ie returning some organic matter to the soil) and optimizing the use of other parts of the plant for recovery of pectin, antioxidants, vitamins, fibre and other valuable components. This project will also include a Life Cycle Analysis of the biorefinery approach to understand sustainability of developed processes. 

3. Prevailing lifestyle diseases in rural and urban India: Role of nutrition transition 

Description: Lifestyle has long been associated with the development of many chronic diseases. WHO has recognized diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke, cancer and chronic lung disease/COPD as major non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These major NCDs share common lifestyle related risk factors. This project will focus on understanding the epidemiology of one of the NCDs in the country, and find region specific correlates with respect to prevalent dietary patterns.