Is Israel Taking The Lead In Climate Tech? What This Could Mean For India

School kids in Israel are regularly taken to Shafdan, the country's biggest water treatment plant, for educational visits.

Israel is very proud about its waste water management system

New Delhi:

There is goodwill for India amongst many in Israel. For an Indian visitor it's easy to come across namastes, Bollywood chatter and even a straight-up "we love India, India is good," the last from a bunch of school kids in Jerusalem.

It's a reflection of the close ties fostered between the two governments over the last couple of decades. Accompanying one such team of Indian and Israeli officials on a tour gave an insight into how this works. On the Israeli side, officials are often pulled in from across departments for this kind of tour regardless of whether that official has anything to do with the India desk or the subject of the tour. This tour's subject may appear mundane - wastewater management - but it's something Israel as an arid land is very proud about and believes, rightly so, that there are lessons of sustainability for others.

School kids are regularly taken to Shafdan, the country's biggest water treatment plant, for educational visits. On a far smaller scale, neighbourhoods have parks and ponds made amidst apartment blocks with treated water from the sewage wastes from the very same apartments.

 No Stench: Israel Showcases Waste-Water Management 


Children feed fish, ducks at a neighbourhood pond created out of treated sewage water from apartment blocks.

While the mantra for success here is working with nature and minimal technology, Israel is equally eager to showcase top-of-the-line innovation. On 21 September, 2022, it held an expo devoted to climate technology. Officials see a common thread across agriculture, water, climate and desert technologies that is of sustainable economic growth and climate action.

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Israel's minister for environmental protection, Tamar Zandberg, in an interview to NDTV says, "Market speaks and money talks" and so the idea is for the government to help with a little money to boost industry.

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Still, that's not good enough since the return on investments or ROI is low, she believes that governments need to prod the markets. "Usually we think the markets can manage by themselves and correct themselves. But in a climate that's a little bit harder because of the challenges - it takes a while before return on investments. This is where governments need to step in," Ms Zandberg says, referring to the landmark I2U2 grouping of India, Israel, UAE and the US as a vehicle for climate action. There's already a $2 billion agreement for food parks in India, and another $330 million one for renewable power in Gujarat.

'Clean' power from waves and hydrogen

The crux of climate action is to cut down on burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and cut down on CO2 emissions linked indisputably by scientists to extreme weather events.

In the ancient port city of Jaffa is a company generating electricity out of waves. There's nothing new in this but Eco Wave Power says its innovations score over many earlier attempts and are now close to being commercialised. The infra - large paddles or floats attached with hydraulic pipes to the generator - is attached to existing walls or jetties next to the shoreline; it doesn't damage the ecology as there's nothing built in the water, even the oil used in the hydraulics is biodegradable; waves are a more stable source of power than solar and wind in coastal cities. While the company is reluctant to share the cost of this one, a similar project in Gibraltar cost under Rs 4 crores.

Electricity From Waves At Tel Aviv's Jaffa Harbour

Nearby, in another part of Tel Aviv, a hydrogen fuel-cell company is selling alternatives to diesel generators. A fuel-cell is different from a battery as it generates power using fuel, whereas a battery stores energy. Price, like with a lot of new innovations, can still be a challenge for a price-sensitive market like India. But the company, GenCell, expects the approximately $40,000 price tag to reduce. It has at least two innovations that company officials say set it apart. One has been to replace expensive platinum with a far cheaper metal as a key raw material, the other is to use widely available ammonia as fuel. The next challenge it's working on is to produce 'green' ammonia that will make this a 'green' hydrogen product i.e. renewable energy is used and no CO2 is emitted in the production of ammonia and hydrogen. Gil Shavit, the co-founder of GenCell says, "energy will be totally green because the only output is not CO2 but H2O which is water."

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At Planetech World 2022, there may be no official participation from India but we met Vivekand Tiwari, a young Indian and a co-founder at an agritech start-up, ClimateCrop. He came as a student and when the project he was working on was ready to be commercialised he got an offer. Tiwari describes Israel as his karmabhoomi, and says he's figured out his calling - building a company back home based on innovation. That's key for India, he says. "In agriculture or industry they need to be innovative and develop the core technologies. Even the service sector is very well developed but needs to be more innovative and that will lead to more entrepreneurs and generate more jobs."