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Adopt Bangladesh Standard Time, save energy

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Eastern sun: Sunrise at Sela pass and peak in Tawang District, Arunachal Pradesh.
Eastern sun: Sunrise at Sela pass and peak in Tawang District, Arunachal Pradesh.

The move will reduce street crime, the use of floodlights and increase professional productivity

Winston Churchill boasted: “The sun never sets on the British Empire”. This dramatic statement was true since the empire extended from Australia on one side to Canada on the other.

When it is dusk in Bengal, it is dawn in the Barbados, and as the sun rises in the Andamans, it is setting in the Falklands, all once British colonies. In an ironic twist, it is now said that the Sun never sets on the Indian diaspora.

Shape of Earth

Churchill’s claim was possible because the Earth is round. Had the Earth been flat, clocks at all places would show the same time. It also helped Churchill that the Earth spins daily on its own axis.

Of course, it would not have mattered whether it spun around East to West or the other way around. But it did matter that it rotated not North to South or the other way around. Longitudes matter for time zones, latitudes do not.

Novel experience

And it is a novel experience for Indian parents, flying by Korean or Singapore Airlines, to visit their children in Silicon Valley to find that they started today and reached there yesterday. Of course, they lose this gain upon return.

People in large countries experience a difference between what the clock says and what the sky says. When it is dawn in New York, the Sun is yet to rise three hours later in Seattle. Clocks will have to be adjusted to account for this. This is how the various time zones have been arranged; Eastern Time in the U. S. is a full three hours ahead, or advanced, than Pacific Time.

Even in India, we can feel the time difference. As the Sun rises in the appropriately named Arunachal Pradesh, it is still dark in Ahmedabad.

Because we have decided not to institute time zones here as the U.S. has, we find the same Sun rising at 4:30 AM at Digboi but later than 6:00 AM at Dwarka. And lights go on ahead at 6 PM in Digboi as the sun is starting to set at Dwarka.

It is this point of ‘saving daylight’ that concerns energy experts in India. We are a large enough nation to have two time zones.

Given that every degree of longitude amounts to 4 minutes (recall 360 degrees of the full circle is 24 hrs), India, spread from 68 degrees to 97 East of Greenwich, spans almost two hours across.

Yet we use a single time zone all over. Would it not be better to set the clocks across India appropriately, to be in tune with the sky?

After all farm animals and plants set their activities with the skylight and we could gain by adjusting our clocks, so as to save time and energy.

Then there are seasonal variations in light and dark, sunrise and sunset. Winter days tend to be shorter and summer days longer.

Here again, setting the clocks in tune with the sky would be natural, convenient and saving on energy. Europe and the U.S. shift their clocks by on hour every April and October in order to save daylight and economise on energy.

Would it not be useful for India to do so too? The Planning Commission had suggested last year that we in India do this, so as to save daylight and reduce peak load electric power.

Arguments raised against it are that it would increase the risk of train accidents across the time zonal boundaries, and perhaps even promote separationist (or secessionist) tendencies.

Some have also argued that the “savings in energy are not large enough to justify the increased risks that two time zones would entail”.

Discussions on setting up time zones and daylight saving time (DST) in India have turned into debates and disagreements. Drs D. R. Ahuja, D. P. Sengupta and U. K. Agrawal of Bangalore discuss the issue and propose a novel solution in the 10th August 2007 issue of Current Science (read their paper at < www.ias.ac.in/ currsci/ aug102007/298 .pdf>). They suggest not to have time zones, or shift the clock twice a year, but to simply advance the Indian clocks by 30 minutes.

This move would make the Indian Standard Time (IST) 6 hours ahead of Greenwich, or the Universal Coordinated Time (abbreviated as UTC), and make it the same as Bangladesh Standard Time. This simple move, they claim, would be beneficial in many ways.

Such an advance would give an extra 30 minutes of daylight in the evenings when it is most useful for all of us.

They point out that it would in fact lead to saving on electric power consumption in the evenings.

How is this estimated? It turns out that the industrial and commercial sectors use up over 44 per cent of electric power, agriculture about 27 per cent and domestic use about 23 per cent.

Two humps

And power consumption per day occurs not uniformly, but shows two humps, one in the morning hours and the other in evening. And the double hump picture is seen all year round — winter and summer alike.

Shifting IST by 30 minutes would make the evening hump come earlier, and a little lower in value, due to the fact that daylight is still on. This gain of daylight, throughout the year, the authors show, leads to a 16 per cent drop in power consumption in the evening hours by industry and commerce.

Of course, it would also mean switching lights earlier at homes in the winter mornings, particularly in West and North India.

But if school timings are suitably adjusted in winter, the inconvenience of sending children to school in the dark can be avoided.

“Advancing IST will continue to save expensive evening energy, increasing year by year with increasing domestic consumption.

The only investments needed are for planning for the starting year of the programme and its subsequent monitoring and evaluation.”

Many benefits

Besides energy saving, the move will help mainstream the Northeast, reduce street crime, increase outdoor activities and reduce the use of floodlights for sporting and other events, increase professional productivity, and bring India in conformity with most regions of the world (which differ in their clocks from UTC by integral hours).

D. BALASUBRAMANIAN

dbala@lvpei.org

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