India defers levy of safeguard duty on solar cells

Aug 14, 2018 0

New Delhi– The Indian government will not insist on payment of safeguard duty on import of solar cells for the time being in deference to an interim order passed by the Orissa High Court, a Finance Ministry official said on Tuesday.

On the recommendations of its Directorate General of Trade Remedies, India had imposed safeguard duties in July on import of solar cells from China and Malaysia for two years to protect the domestic industry from the sudden recent flood of cheap imports.

“In compliance with the interim directions issued by the Orissa High Court, it has been decided not to insist on payment of safeguard duty, for the time being,” the official said, noting that a circular had been issued in this regard.

Accordingly, solar cells, whether assembled as modules or panels, would be assessed provisionally for the purpose of safeguard duty, on the submission of a simple letter of undertaking or bond by the concerned importer, the official added.

Solar cells from China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan account for more than 90 per cent of such imports into India. (IANS)

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Now electric vehicles to have green number plates

Aug 10, 2018 0

New Delhi– All battery-operated vehicles will now have to bear number plates with green background, the government said on Friday.

A notification issued by the Road Transport and Highways Ministry said while battery-operated transport vehicles will have to exhibit their registration numbers in yellow colour on green background, such private vehicles will lso have to change their number plates to white colour on green background.

“The Ministry has notified amendments to Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 to this effect. It had invited objections and suggestions from general public on these in May last,” an official statement said.

The government also invited suggestions and objections to from general public on proposed amendments to the Central Motor Vehicles Rules regarding retro-fitment of electric kits to motor vehicles. (IANS)

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Biobatteries efficient to combat power wastage

Aug 9, 2018 0

New York– US scientists have developed easy to produce, low-cost, flexible and biodegradable paper-based batteries that are more efficient to combat power wastage, as well as provide an eco-friendly alternative.

The biobattery uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers.

The polymers — poly (amic) acid and poly (pyromellitic dianhydride-p-phenylenediamine) — were the key to giving the batteries biodegrading properties.

“There’s been a dramatic increase in electronic waste and this may be an excellent way to start reducing that,” said Seokheun ‘Sean’ Choi, Associate Professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

“Our hybrid paper battery exhibited a much higher power-to-cost ratio than all previously reported paper-based microbial batteries,” he added.

For years, there has been excitement in the scientific community about the possibility of paper-based batteries as an eco-friendly alternative.

However, the proposed designs were never quite powerful enough, they were difficult to produce and it was questionable whether they were really biodegradable.

This new design solves all of those problems, the researchers said, in the paper published in the journal Advanced Sustainable Systems.

The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. Choi said that flexibility also provides another benefit.

“Power enhancement can be potentially achieved by simply folding or stacking the hybrid, flexible paper-polymer devices,” Choi said.

For the study, the team tested the degradation of the battery in water and it clearly biodegraded without the requirements of special facilities, conditions or introduction of other microorganisms.

They noted that producing the biobatteries is a fairly straightforward process and that the material allows for modifications depending on what configuration is needed. (IANS)

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With 4 years to go, just 6% of solar rooftop target installed

Aug 8, 2018 0

By Madhur Singh

Chandigarh–With less than four years left to meet its target of installing 40,000 megawatt (MW) of rooftop solar power capacity by 2022, India has installed just about 2,538 MW as of March 2018, a full 94 per cent short of target.

At this rate, missing the target is a foregone conclusion, which also jeopardises the country’s overall solar target of 100 gigawatt (GW, equal to 1,000 MW) by 2022.

Rooftop solar has been a key part of the recent renewables revolution around the world, and its appeal is clear — residential, commercial and industrial buildings can generate their own electricity, which is green and potentially less expensive than the power they draw from the grid. What’s more, they can inject excess power back into the grid and get paid for it.

India’s ambitious target, in fact, is backed by a 30 per cent subsidy for residential buildings. But this has failed to enthuse home owners, the majority of whom pay small electricity bills and find the cost of solar equipment prohibitive in comparison.

Commercial and industrial building owners have shown more enthusiasm as their large power bills justify the expense of solar power systems, even though they get no subsidy. But here, policy and regulation are blocking the way, say a range of industry participants, including installation businesses, consultants and power distribution companies (discoms).

“The government needs to do much more if it is serious about the 40 GW target,” Sanjeev Agarwal, Managing Director and CEO of Amplus Solar, one of the largest rooftop solar installations companies in India, told IndiaSpend.

After India announced the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010, rooftop installations went from zero to grow annually at a compound annual rate of 117 per cent between 2013-14 and 2017-18.

In 2015, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy announced its 40 GW target and subsidy for home-owners, and began to urge state governments to announce policies to enable net-metering, a billing mechanism that enables power consumers to be paid for injecting renewable power into the grid.

The segment has since grown to install 2,538 MW as of March 31, according to the consultancy Bridge to India. This gives rooftop solar a 10 per cent share in India’s overall solar capacity installation, with large-scale and off-grid solar installations cumulatively nearing 22,000 MW during the same period.

On the plus side, the industry is at “an inflection point” right now, Agarwal of Amplus Solar said. “Rooftop solar is a well-established, well-understood sub-sector now, not the hard sell it was when we started four years ago,” he said. “The technology is well established, and costing has come down 40-50 per cent to a level where adoption is quick.”

The earliest and most eager adopters of rooftop solar have been commercial and industrial users, accounting for 544 MW and 1,088 MW of capacity installation, as per Bridge to India. “They have large rooftops and large consumption, and are able to break even in 3-4 years,” Kanika Khanna, Director, SunkalpEnergy, which brings together rooftop owners and solar system installers, told IndiaSpend.

Across India, grid power tariffs vary by state, but generally, residential tariffs are subsidised and quite low for small users (roughly Rs 5 per kilowatt-hour), but get progressively higher for larger users (around Rs 7.75 per kilowatt-hour).

That makes the wealthier home-owners also interested. For the vast majority of home-owners, however, the subsidised power from the grid is so cheap that it does not make economic sense to spend on expensive solar power systems. This is why only 503 MW have been installed on private homes.

As an inducement, the renewables ministry gives home-owners a 30 per cent subsidy on the cost of equipment. “But the process is long-winded and involves many permissions,” Khanna said, which can take up to four months, “Though in some states you could wait for up to a year and a half!” For small retail consumers such as households, that is too long a wait.

For this reason, “Nobody is looking at subsidy anymore”, Agarwal said, “[Businesses] don’t want to get into the residential sector because the subsidy is not enough, the paperwork is too much, you are forced to use domestic equipment that is not the best in the market, and then get an inflated invoice because companies want to claim more subsidy.”

Installation businesses instead want to focus on commercial and industrial rooftops. But here, too, the government must urgently improve the ease of doing business, Agarwal said.

In addition to the various approvals mentioned before, commercial and industrial customers are held back by other regulatory hurdles. For one, most states’ net-metering policies allow a roof owner to inject into the grid only a proportion of their sanctioned off-take from the grid.

So, facilities such as warehouses, for instance, which need power only for lighting purposes and hence have small “sanctioned loads”, are prevented from installing greater rooftop generation capacity and using the full potential of their vast rooftops.

Perhaps the biggest challenge the rooftop solar segment faces is opposition from discoms. To keep residential tariffs low, utilities charge higher tariffs from commercial and industrial customers to cross-subsidise residences. As high-paying commercial and industrial customers begin to use rooftop systems, their bills shrink, reducing discom revenues and forcing them to further raise commercial and industrial users’ tariffs, setting off an adverse cycle.

In theory, utilities would gain as more users moved to rooftop systems because it would cut down their transmission and distribution losses — recorded at a whopping 19 per cent in 2014. All rooftop capacity installed in their license areas also goes towards offsetting their renewable purchase obligations, under which discoms must source a portion of their power use from renewable sources.

However, at the moment, these benefits are dwarfed by the drawbacks.

“In the current scenario, there is no incentive for discoms,” Vinay Rustagi, Managing Director, Bridge to India, told IndiaSpend. “Not only do they lose their high tariff paying customers, they also have to undertake extra efforts to upgrade distribution infrastructure and provide free metering and banking services to rooftop solar projects.” Banking means injecting excess energy into the grid which can be later claimed at a charge.

Utilities need financial and operational support to encourage the rooftop segment, Rustagi said, and new business models must be devised which give discoms the role of a service provider that gets compensated for its efforts of facilitating installation and use of rooftop solar systems, as well as the loss of its business.

To this end, the renewables ministry in December 2017 proposed a scheme, called Sustainable Rooftop Implementation for Solar Transfiguration of India (SRISTI), to make utilities the central agencies responsible for installing rooftop solar power plants in the residential sector while offering them a subsidy on installation costs in addition to incentives based on capacity added.

Some utilities support this scheme, saying their existing interface with consumers can be put to good use. The trust that exists between the consumer and the utility is absent between the installer or the developer, Jitendra Nalwaya, Additional Vice-president at the private utility BSES Delhi, told IndiaSpend. He said commercial and industrial rooftops account for larger volumes of capacity installation, but the residential segment is important to create a culture that gives renewable rooftop installations primacy in the interest of long-term sustainability.

However, critics point out, a one-time subsidy is not enough. A June 2018 study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), BSES and Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation suggested several alternative business models that give utilities a central role in installing rooftop systems as well as in collecting user fees, from which they would earn revenue, while eliminating the need for rooftop owners to make any upfront expenditure.

“Whichever models are eventually approved, effective implementation is the key as past moves have suffered from bureaucratic glitches,” Rustagi said, “Also, as electricity is a concurrent subject, buy-in from state governments is crucial for growth of this market.” (IANS)

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Solar leads India’s electricity generation transition: IEEFA

May 8, 2018 0

New Delhi– India installed a record 10 gigawatts (GW) of solar electricity capacity in 2017-2018, twice the rate logged in the previous year and nearly double the country’s entire solar base, the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said.

The gains put India at 22 GW of total cumulative capacity and the trend is continuing.

A number of announcements in this April show momentum building. Solar technology continues to advance, with floating solar, hybrid wind-solar-battery and blended solar-thermal tariff developments now underway, an IEEFA analysis said.

Cost deflation is likely to remain a medium-term trend as economies of scale are achieved, spurred in part by India’s development of the world’ largest solar project, the 2.2-GW Bhadla project in Rajasthan that is set to come online in 2019, said the assessment compiled by IEEFA’s Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia, Tim Buckley and Research Associate Kashish Shah.

According to it, the 10 GW of solar installed in 2017-18 represents most of the 12.1 GW of new renewable capacity commissioned over the past 12 months. Renewables now account for 20 per cent of total installed capacity in India and 7.7 per cent of electricity generation.

While the surge in new renewable generation has increased concerns about grid constraints, the right level of ongoing investment will make those issues manageable even as renewable energy installs double to more than 20 GW annually by 2020, the IEEFA said.

The faster that India invests in renewables infrastructure the faster it can decarbonize its economy, but without the proper alignment of investment and domestic employment, the government will face political resistance to the upfront $300 billion investment required over the coming decade, it added.

Tying new solar tenders to domestic manufacturing investment aligns both strategies, with the likely outcome that the world’s leading solar module manufacturers will set up operations in India, bringing employment opportunities and, more important, world-leading solar technology at scale, the analysis said.

Indeed, in April, Japan’s SoftBank and China’s GCL System Integration Technology Co. announced a $930m 60-40 joint venture to build a major solar module manufacturing plant, with two phases each of 2 GW of annual production capacity, it said, adding that SoftBank brings the capital and GCL brings the world’s latest solar technology and management expertise. (IANS)

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India on track to reduce emissions: Modi

Feb 16, 2018 0

New Delhi– Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that despite scepticism, India is on the path of reducing emission by 20 to 25 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020.

Addressing the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) here, he said that India’s goal is to create a carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030 which once seemed difficult to many.

“Yet we continue our steady progress on that path. According to the UNEP Gap Report, India is on track to meet its Copenhagen Pledge of reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20 to 25 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020,” Modi said

He added the government is doing everything required to ensure equality, equity and climate justice.

“We must also stress on climate justice for all vulnerable populations. We in India are focused on ease of living through good governance, sustainable livelihood and through cleaner environment,” said the Prime Minister, citing a National Geographic report on environmental sustainability.

“Recently, National Geographic’s Greendex Report of 2014 which assesses the environmental sustainability of consumer choice ranked India at the top for its greenest consumption pattern.”

WSDS is the flagship forum of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and seeks to bring together on a common platform, global leaders and thinkers in the fields of sustainable development, energy and environment sectors. (IANS)

 

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Drop GST on Bio-diesel from 18 to 5 percent, demands industry

Jan 16, 2018 0

New Delhi– Struggling to survive despite the government ‘s clean energy dream, biodiesel industies have demanded the Goods and Service Tax (GST) rate on them be slashed from the current 18 to 5 per cent.

The demand came days after solar industry made a similar pitch, stating while unrealistic levy on the solar panels is killing the indian industry and giving an edge to Chinese exporters.

On Tuesday, the Biodiesel Association of India (BDAI) wrote to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Finance Ministers of West Bengal and Rajasthan seeking reduction of high GST rate.

The apex industry body pointed out that while there is a huge potential of producing more cleaner fuel in India, the extraordinary levy has bought the industry at the “brink of extinction”.

With implementation of GST from July 1 2017, levy on Biodiesel has gone from 6 percent in excise duty to 18 per cent in GST.

“This has made Biodiesel costlier than High Speed Diesel (HSD) and biodiesel users will not get any Input Credit for use of it. Both these put together, effective cost of Biodiesel has become unviable to the end users. Eventually the entire Biodiesel industry will come to a halt, despite this Green Fuel having such environment and social benefits,” BDAI said in the letters.

Made directly from edible oil in equal quantity, of which India is second highest consumer, the bio-diesel helps in reducing the emissions by 30 to 100 percent, depending upon its blend in the normal diesel.

“With 18 per cent GST, the price come around Rs. 10 per litres, this is equivalent to normal diesel,” BDAI President Sandeep Chaturvedi told IANS.

At present few states like Karnataka use 100 percent or zero emission biodiesel buses, while states like Andhra Pradesh use 20 percent blend bio-diesel.

“This means cleaner environment, drop in imports and several jobs,” Chaturvedi said.

Indian Railways, state transport corporations, port authorities, construction and mining, jute, textile and chemical manufacturers among others are users of biodiesel in India.

Currently India has an installed capacity of 12 lakh ton per annum of biodiesel, of which actual production is 3.5 lac ton per annum, however estimated or potential production is about 27.5 lakh tons per annum.

“The industry employs 25,000 people directly and 100,000 people indirectly and with the demand, employment requirement would go to an estimated 500,000,” Chaturvedi said.

He further added that by replacement of 3.95 million MT diesel by biodiesel, India would save its foreign currency of approx. S$1.47 billion.

“This can go further up with increase in Blend Ratio from 5 per cent to 20 per cent,” he said, adding that the biodiesel industry is also in discussions with the defence sector. (IANS)

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India and ASEAN countries agree to tackle climate change, price volatility

Jan 12, 2018 0

New Delhi– India and ASEAN countries on Friday agreed to cooperate in agriculture and forestry to tackle challenges of climate change and price volatility, along with seeking intervention for livelihood opportunities, exchange of farm machinery and development of heterotic rice hybrids.

In a joint declaration at the 4th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry here, they also sought cooperation on exchanging expertise as to promote enhanced resilience of natural systems, and improve the adaptive capacities of people to cope with environmental hazards.

“We supported the prioritization of joint collaborative projects in the areas of (i) Agroforestry interventions for livelihood opportunities, (ii) Demonstration and exchange of farm implement and machinery, and (iii) Genetic improvement of parental lines and development of heterotic rice hybrids,” it said.

“We look forward to the implementation of more capacity building programmes in 2018 on the empowerment of ASEAN and Indian women through cooperatives, and managing food security and price volatility”.

As a part of Medium Term Plan of Action for ASEAN-India Cooperation in Agriculture and Forestry for 2016-2020, they said: “We underscore the importance of addressing climate change as it negatively impacts food security.”

The declaration also sought implementation of the 3rd exchange visit for farmers between ASEAN and India in order to provide opportunities for ASEAN and Indian farmers and fishers, including young and women farmers, to learn and develop more efficient farming practices and management skills through information sharing.

The 5th ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry will be held in Brunei Darussalam in 2019.

Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia Laos and Brunei are the members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). (IANS)

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Delhi pollution down, claims Sisodia

Jan 10, 2018 0

New Delhi– Based on a pollution report that does not includes the top polluting areas of the city, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on WEdnesday said the pollution levels in 2017 were lowest in past five years.

Sisodia was citing a report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a copy of which is with IANS, that compares the effluents levels of six regions across Delhi — Pitampura, Sirfort, Janakpuri, Nizamuddin, ShahzadaBagh and Shahdara, from 2013 to 2017.

However, top polluting areas, where air quality has ranged from “severe to severe plus” for most of the polluting days throughout the year, were not considered.

According to records, the areas recording the most pollution include Anand Vihar in east Delhi, Mathura Road and R.K. Puram in sourth Delhi, Mandir Marg and ITO crossing in central Delhi, ISBT Kashmiri Gate and Delhi University North Campus in north Delhi, and Punjabi Bagh in west Delhi.

“According to CPCB data, in 2017, annual average of pollution levels of PM2.5 and PM10 is lowest in the past five years,” Sisodia said.

At present, CPCB has a netweork of 17 pollution monitoring stations across different areas of Delhi. The report however focused only on the six under national air quality monitoring (NAMP) stations, that showed minor improvement.

“The data (of report) is from the manual monitoring that CPCB has been doing since 2013,” CPCB scientist and spokesperson D Saha told IANS.

The CPCB report included four major pollutants, namely sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matters PM2.5 and PM10, or particles in air with diameter less than 2.5 and 10 micrometres.

The report showed that the annual average PM2.5 and PM10, at those six areas, though increased drastically from 2015 to 2016 but then dropped from 2016 towards 2017.

The average PM2.5 and PM10 were 119 microgrammes per cubic meters and 301 units in 2016 against 101 units and 260 units in 2017.

However, according to 2017 figures, PM2.5 ranged from “very poor (300 units) to “severe plus” (above 300 to 350 units) during the polluting days or air pollution situation at top polluting regions, especially Anand Vihar, Kashmiri Gate and North Campus.

Sisodia said that diesel consumption in the city has decreased by 16 per cent, registration of new vehicles decreased by 11 per cent and green cover has increased by 600 hectares, and these have helped to decrease the pollution levels.(IANS)

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Waste to wealth: Hunt for bioenergy in Loktak’s invasive plants

Jan 8, 2018 0

By Sahana Ghpsh

Imphal– Scientists in Manipur — which dominates the media discourse on insurgency — are on an aggressive hunt for bioenergy sourced from alien plant invaders of the iconic Loktak lake, aiming to showcase the “Jewel of India” as a top bio-entrepreneurship destination.

On the agenda is a proposal to set up a biorefinery, in the lake landscape, that churns carbohydrate-rich feedstock — derived from an invasive weed called paragrass — into alcohol and other value-added chemical products.

Spearheaded by a group of scientists at Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD) here under the leadership of Director Dinabandhu Sahoo, the search for alternative energy from paragrass (pani wala ghaas or buffalo grass) — a fodder source — also offers a way to rein in the growth of these slow but steady invaders.

“Our study shows that this excessive growth of paragrass can tackled by using it sustainably as a biorefinery feedstock. Initially we will set up a 500 kg capacity as a pilot plant. Subsequently it will be upscaled to industrial scale,” Sahoo, told this correspondent.

The spurt in the growth of paragrass and other weeds, as also algal blooms, is enhanced by the unnatural enrichment of the water body by two plant nutrients, phosphorus and nitrogen (in a process called eutrophication), which ultimately leads to depleted oxygen levels and generally poor water quality.

“Only mechanical removal of the weeds and throwing them around the lake is not going to help. After decay and disintegration of these weeds the nutrients are coming back to the lake (leading to eutrophication). Therefore, we decided to start a bioenergy programme which can create wealth from the waste,” explained Sahoo.

Loktak, northeast India’s largest freshwater lake, is unique for a floating mass of intertwined and semi-anchored thick plant mats, locally known as phumdis.

In these phumdis, about 1.5 metre deep, one encounters fisherfolk (crouched within make-shift huts and shelters) going about their business surrounded by a multitude of plant and animal species, including some very rare ones.

The phumdis, which form a thick biomass or floating meadows, shelter the 206 critically endangered Sangai deer (brow antlered deer), ensconced in the southern corner of Loktak inside the Keibul Lamjao National Park — the only refuge of the animal whose dainty gait is said to have inspired Manipuri dance traditions.

To ensure its survival, an ecological balance must be struck in the wake of changes in the natural flora of the phumdis due to pollution and human interference.

A hour-and-a half drive from Imphal to Loktak throws up views of rotting phumdi biomass (including the alien weeds) along the roadside through Moirang. They have been dragged out by cranes and dumped on roadsides with locals padding them together with mud to farm vegetables.

Though invasive species now dominate the flora and “programmes to remove the invasive grasses have not met with success due to rapid re-growth”, these plants can become unlikely heroes in green energy discoveries, Sahoo believes.

Many parts of the Loktak lake have been taken over by paragrass.

The rest of the landscape is dominated by wild rice grass, phragmites (grass), different types of algae, water hyacinth and the like.

According to agricultural biotechnologist Rajiv Kangabam of the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology at Jorhat’s Assam Agricultural University, paragrass was introduced in Manipur during 1972-1973 to support the state’s dairy industry.

It was reported that cattle feeding on paragrass had enhanced milk production.

“This plant grows luxuriantly in the Loktak lake and prevents the growth of other native species, thereby threatening the indigenous plants,” Kangabam told this correspondent.

Swaying hairy leaves and hollow stems of paragrass floating above the water reach out to visitors as they canoe their way through the phumdis inside the park. One can also spot algal blooms in the water body.

The chemical make-up of these semi-aquatic weed lends itself to being excellent feedstock for bioethanol production.

“It constitutes of 42 per cent of cellulose and about 20 per cent hemicellulose, the hydrolysis of which can yield fermentable sugars which is an excellent feedstock for bioethanol production. For a low cost process, we used sodium hydroxide based pre-treatment,” Sahoo noted, referring to a study published in Bioresource Technology late last year.

One kilogram of biomass processing yields approximately 120 ml of ethanol depending on fermentation efficiency, co-author Sabeela Ummalyma said.

As of now, the focus is on improving the fermentation condition to get maximum ethanol production as well as better pre-treatment condition for getting more fermentable sugars, Ummalyma said.

Sahoo argued that the waste-to-wealth biorefinery approach can be applied to areas facing similar problems.

“Chilika Lake in Odisha is facing a huge problem due to extensive growth of Phragmitis (popularly called Nala) in Nalabana island. Our work on integrated biorefinery to produce mainly bioenergy and biofertiliser will not only solve the environmental problems but also boost the bioeconomy of the region,” Sahoo added. (IANS)

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