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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

Last updated on: August 17, 2011 09:25 IST

Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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Leslie D Monte in Mumbai

Given the tonnes of sewage and filth that have accumulated in the Ganga over the years, this may seem to be a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, technology major IBM India is working with IIT-Kharagpur to develop data models that can help predict floods, the movement of water tables, the shifting of water beds, floods and droughts - factors which affect the health of people and crops, and safety along the river Ganga.

"The project is based on the shared university research model, a global programme that promotes academia-corporate partnership to address challenging problems faced by the society," says Bhooshan Kelkar, IBM India's country manager for university relations.

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Image: A view of the river.

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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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IBM gives 40-60 such awards annually, and these, a part of its larger 'Smarter Planet' global initiative, are "very competitive", he says.

Last year, IIT-Kharagpur was given an SUR award. Since then, IBM India researchers are working with the institute in two areas - water management (the Clean Ganga project) and telemedicine.

As part of its involvement in the Clean Ganga project, IBM is leveraging its expertise in three areas - data management, integration and analytics.

Data related to the flow of the Ganga (for areas alongside IIT-Kharagpur) is being collected through satellites and sensors placed at various points on the river bed.

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Image: IBM is leveraging its expertise in three areas - data management, integration and analytics.

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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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The data is analysed, managed and reconciled with historical data, after which the consolidated is saved on a shared cloud infrastructure.

IBM India's software division and IBM India Research are working with seven departments at IIT-Kharagpur.

"Our teams are in place. But the scope is vast. We are in the process of integrating the data and building data models. The integration of data (both obvious and non-obvious), and coming up with meaningful reports, remains a challenge," says Kelkar.

IBM is an old hand at developing technologies to address water-related problems.

In 2007, the company undertook a project for the minute-to-minute monitoring of New York's Hudson River through an integrated network of sensors, robotics and computational technology distributed throughout the 315-mile river.

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Image: IBM is working with seven departments at IIT-Kharagpur.

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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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IBM used its 'stream computing' system to capture data from a multitude of sensors that measure the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen content and pollution loading.

It also mapped the population of fishes through acoustical data and tracked particular species of fish through radio 'tagging'.

In 2010, Nature Conservancy (one of the largest environmental groups in the world) and IBM announced plans to launch a free website called 'Rivers for Tomorrow', through which watershed managers can map, analyse and share information on the health of local freshwater river basins for use by clean-up programmes.

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Image: IBM also mapped the population of fishes.

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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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IBM's World Community Grid also supports the Computing for Clean Water project, a joint project between the Centre for Nano and Micro Mechanics and several international research institutions, to track how water flows in nanotubes, using a computer-based simulation technique known as molecular dynamics.

This can be used to build a new generation of cheap water filters. The simulations, however, devour computing power.

Thousands of volunteers on the IBM Grid provide this computing power by allowing simulations to run using the idle time of the processor chips in their laptops and PCs.

Globally, the grid has over half a million members and 1.8 million devices for projects.

There are over 3,000 members from India and over 7,500 devices.

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Image: Thousands of volunteers provide computing power.

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Here's what IBM and IIT are doing for Ganga!

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The clean-up of the Ganga is a much larger project. IIT-Kharagpur is just one of the seven IITs (the others being Kanpur, Delhi, Madras, Bombay, Guwahati and Roorkee) to be roped in by the Indian government, a little more than a year before, to prepare a plan to help clean the Ganga.

The task is being coordinated by IIT-Kanpur's Vinod Tare.

"We hope to submit the report by March 2012. It's a tall task, and the time at hand is short," admits Tare.

The plan, he explains, would cover strategies to reduce pollution, increase water resources flowing into the basin, prepare hydrological and groundwater models, devise outlines for policies and frame a strategy to involve the citizens.

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Image: The clean-up of the Ganga is a much larger project.

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The IITs, adds Tare, are also working with many other institutes like Patna University, Aligarh Muslim University and the Central Fisheries Institute.

"It's a multi-disciplinary effort, with over 100 faculty members involved," he says.

The plan to clean the Ganga by 2020 got a fillip in June, when the World Bank pitched in with $1 billion in credit and loans.

Skeptics, meanwhile, recall in 1985, the government had made a similar commitment.

However, over the years, the pollution has only increased. One only hopes history doesn't repeat itself.


Image: World Bank pitched in with $1 billion in credit and loans.

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