Faculty Name: Prof. Amit Arora
Topic 1: Scaling up evaluation and techno-economic analysis of fruit processing waste biorefinery
India is the one of the largest producers of fruits & vegetables in the world with an annual production of around 250 million tonnes. Quantum 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.
Topic 2: Development of a multi-feedstock biorefinery: Techno-economic analysis and life cycle assessment
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.
Topic 3: Prevailing lifestyle diseases in rural and urban India: Role of nutrition transition
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.
Faculty Name: Prof Anand B. Rao
Topic 1: Future of Microgrids in India
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?
Topic 2: Cage fishing in inland water reservoirs: Assessing the technology options and their socio-economic impacts on the local communities
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.
(Co-Guide: Prof. Siddhartha Ghosh, Department of Civil Engineering)
Topic 3: Clean energy Interventions in rural areas: Understanding the barriers, drivers and the dynamics of dissemination
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.
Topic 4: Reverse Migration: Understanding the potential, drivers and barriers
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.
Topic 5: Solid Waste Management: To Recover Energy or Materials?
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, palletisation, 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.
Topic 6: Biogas Technology: Can it deliver the promise?
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.
Topic 7: Modelling the future demand for bricks in India and its impact on resources, livelihoods and climate
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.
Topic 8: Scope for technology intervention in the supply chain of NTFPs and NTFP-based products
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 Name: Prof. Pennan Chinnasamy
Topic 1: Climate change Influence on Groundwater Hydrology in India
India is the highest groundwater extractor in the world; however, reasons, mitigations and adaptation plans for this extraction is limited. Given India is an agrarian nation and agriculture is the highest groundwater extractor, it is of utmost importance to understand climate change impacts on ground water status for current and future Indian scenarios.
Topic 2: Site Specific Optimum Number of Check Dams
Check dams have been documented as the saviour in many rural areas in India, however, their scientific significance and impacts on downstream communities are less understood. As a result, some stream reaches are overcrowded with check dams. In this research project, check dam data from 14 check dams will be analysed using complex physical hydrological models, to understand sustainable check dam construction and review different check dam designs on local hydrology.
Topic 3: Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science for Agricultural Water Management
“Bhujal Jankars”, a successful groundwater co-operative movement in Rajasthan has documented how farmer-based crowd sourcing can be used to successfully train farmers and locals on groundwater management. Research is needed to upscale this activity and build indigenous and cost saving methods across rural regions in India. Therefore, scientific learning from this research will be used to develop future frameworks.
Topic 4: Wetland Protection for Climate Change Mitigation and Tribal Welfare
In recent years, wetland’s role in mitigating adverse climate change impacts is well documented. However, the understanding and learning from Indian context is less understood, leading to further degradation of wetlands in India. In this research, the role of wetlands in protecting sensitive ecosystems, livelihoods and mitigation climate change impacts will be modelled and recommendation plans given to the Government of Tamil Nadu
Topic 5: Remote Sensing tools in Rural Water Management
Many remote sensing tools exist for water management, of which satellites play a vital role. Most research based on satellite images use foreign imagery, while ISRO based images are less utilized. In order to build indigenous technologies, it is needed to use ISRO imagery to understand water management in rural India. In this research, the candidate will be advised by ISRO scientists, who share mutual interests in using ISRO imagery for rural water management
Topic 6: Impacts on Gender, Marginalized and Rural Communities due to Groundwater Over Exploitation
Groundwater has been extracted at alarming rates in developing and underdeveloped countries, especially along the Ganges Basin. This has triggered and could be the reason for many disasters, such as ground subsistence, earth-quakes, natural groundwater pollution, disappearance of streams and rivers, etc. In regions where groundwater is the only source of drinking water and irrigation water, women, marginalized (e.g. tribal) and rural communities are most impacted. In many families, one girl child’s duty is to collect drinking water over the entire day, and as a result loses schooling. To understand collective impacts of groundwater depletion in the Ganges basin, a holistic and transboundary (e.g. India, Nepal and Bangladesh) research is needed. The outcomes of this research can aid in initiating community-based activities that can aid these communities, who may not have other sources to aid them.
Topic 7: Groundwater depletion scenario for India use of isotopes and modelling
Topic 8: Big Data analysis for rural resource management and development
Topic 9: Climate change impacts on hydrological regimes in rural India
Topic 10: Evaporation and Precipitation changes from cultivated rural regions of India
Topic 11: Assessing Water footprints in rural India
Faculty Name: Prof. Priya Jadhav
Topic 1: Solar photovoltaic pumps for irrigation
Solar photovoltaic pumps are being promoted by various governments for irrigation. However, the suitability of these pumps compared to grid-based pumps depends on agro-climatic conditions, irrigation practices, and their development. The analysis for a state like Maharashtra, with a well-developed grid, may show a very different set of outcomes than a state like Bihar, with plenty of water but poor energy infrastructure. At the same time states with well-developed grid infrastructures can be good case studies to understand the effects of wide-spread usage of solar PV pumps. In this topic we will observe and analyse the current practices of farmers using solar PV pumps in select regions, and compare with grid-based usage. The understanding may be used to design targeted solar PV pump schemes, considering current cropping and irrigation practices, and expected developments in crop selection based on increasing access to energy in a region.
This topic is suitable for candidates of any engineering background.
Topic 2: Solar photovoltaic pumps and micro-irrigation: Trade-off between water and energy usage
Micro-irrigation (or pressurised irrigation) has been promoted as a water-saving technique, accompanied with other benefits. Used with solar PV pumps, it has been purported to save on the cost of the solar PV pump because of reduced water usage – this is especially important because of the high upfront cost of solar PV pumps. However, pressurised irrigation in fact increases the energy used per unit of water. Also, in solar PV pumps there is a variation in power output over the day, which complicates the usage of pressurised irrigation. For this reason, it is important to optimize the solar PV pump selection and usage for various agro-climatic conditions. Especially with the varied irrigation methods that a farmer uses with different crops. This topic researches the current understanding of these interactions and how a framework may aid in better selection and usage of solar PV pumps.
This topic is suitable for candidates of any engineering background.
Topic 3: Access to irrigation by vulnerable farmers in Marathwada and Vidarbha
Irrigation is one of the most important inputs for agricultural productivity. Much of India is cropped through rainfed farming. In the rainfed areas of Maharashtra, crops like gram, cotton, soybean, pigeon pea which constitute a large part of crops, are mostly rainfed. Access to a few irrigations, can go a long way towards decreasing risk and improving productivity for farmers. Access to irrigation may be limited due to water availability, lack of access to a water source, or lack of access to energy for pumping. In this topic, we will quantify the reasons for lack of access to irrigation, investigate the possibilities for community irrigation schemes, and conduct a broad analysis of the implications of an energy supply system which supplies energy for a few irrigations but to a greater number of farmers.
This topic is suitable for candidates of any engineering background.
Topic 4: Value of drip and sprinkler irrigation in Marathwada and Vidarbha: Considerations of water, energy, and farmer productivity
Drip and sprinkler irrigation are promoted through institutional channels with the promise of saving water at the field level. However, these savings often occur only in experimental conditions, and in actuality it depends on soil type, crop type, planting configuration, and irrigation frequency and duration etc. The use of drip in close spaced crops such as onion or cotton, may not result in any water savings if the watering frequency is the same as in furrow – and this has been observed in the field. Farmers use micro-irrigation for various reasons, sometimes different from water savings, and may have limited information on best practices. Also, since micro-irrigation is pressurised it results in an increase in energy. Subsidies are involved in both energy as well as drip and sprinkler equipment, hence it is worthwhile exploring the trade-offs between the various effects of micro-irrigation, farmer practices, and the information available to them through governmental and private channels. The region of Marathwada and Vidarbha is suitable since it is a water constrained region, with farmers using varied irrigation practices for several crops.
Faculty Name: Prof Subodh Wagle
Topic 1: Policy and Institutional Responses to the Impact of the Local Political Economy on Watershed Development Projects
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.
Topic 2: Reluctance of Urban Citizens in India to Segregate Solid Waste at the Household Level: Policy and Institutional Responses
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.
Topic 3: Addressing the Chronic Failure of Rural Water Supply Schemes in India: Applying Governance Dynamics Framework
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 analyse 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.
Topic 4: Systemic Integration of Water and Wastewater Systems in Urban Areas: Exploration of Policy and Institutional Options in Maharashtra
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.
Topic 5: Assessing Policy and Institutional Barriers to Dissemination of Solar Technologies in India
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.
Topic 6: Understanding Reluctance of Small and Marginal Farmers to Undertake Processing of Their Agricultural / Horticultural Produce
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.
Topic 7: Understanding the Private Water Provisioning in the Last Mile in Metro, Medium, and Small Cities in India
Faculty Name: Prof. Parmeshwar Udmale
Topic 1: Agriculture, Droughts and Water Scarcity - Transdisciplinary Research
- Monitoring drought and its impacts on agriculture & water supply, and drought mitigation strategies.
- Defining area and severity thresholds for droughts at different administrative levels through stakeholders’ involvement in scientific research.
- Mapping cropping patterns and crop suitability areas for evidence-based policy options to promote sustainable agriculture and water management strategies.
- Assessing determinants of farmers' distress and strategies to tackle the issues using robust statistical analysis.
Topic 2: Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus
- Optimizing the water-energy-food nexus in the context of changing climate by using technological and management innovations for improving the livelihood of vulnerable farmers in water-scarce areas of Maharashtra State
Topic 3: Disaster Risk and Resilience in Rural Livelihood Context
- Natural hazards profile of Maharashtra State: A prerequisite for disaster risk and resilience research
- Multi-hazard vulnerability/risk and resilience modelling at the local scale (includes modelling multi-hazards impacts on rural livelihood).
Topic 4: Food Security and Supply Chains – Present and Future
- Modelling virtual water & energy flows through domestic and international crop trade
- Modelling propagation of crop production/supply shocks through trade
- Farm input-output monitoring and analysis: A prerequisite for Minimum Support Price
- Food Security through Public Distribution Systems
Topic 5: SDG – in Rural Areas Context - Reality Check Analysis-based Research
- Measuring and monitoring SDGs in rural area context (village, sub-district, district) and understanding synergies and trade-offs through stakeholders' engagement
- Multi-Hazards, COVID-19, and rural livelihood: Implications for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 2030).