[Answered] The discovery of lithium in Jammu and Kashmir is significant for India’s push toward electric vehicles but there are risks associated with it. Discuss.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Explain somebenefits of lithium discovery. Also write some risks associated with it.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has established 5.9 million tonnes of inferred lithium resources in Jammu and Kashmir. Lithium is considered a strategic element because of its use on batteries used in Electric Vehicles (EVs). The finding of the reserves is being considered as a game-changer in India’s transition towards green mobility.

Benefits of lithium discovery:

  • Reducing dependence on Imports: In FY2021-2022, India imported lithium and lithium ion worth nearly Rs 14,000 crores. The demand is likely to rise multifold in the future.
  • Affordable Transition: It will help the EV ecosystem reach the masses at reasonable and affordable costs, and make the transition to green mobility more economical.
  • Meet Government Objectives: The will also help advance the Government’s ambitious plan of 30% EV penetration in private cars, 70% for commercial vehicles, and 80% for two and three-wheelers by 2030 for the automobile industry.
  • Potential to become Major Producer: The majority of the global reserve is located in regions with severe water stress makes this discovery even more important. India is a potential replacement because the mineral requires a large amount of water for extraction and the majority of the reserves are in nations with water scarcity.

Associated Risks:

  • Environmental issues:Approximately 2.2 million litres of water are needed to produce one tonne of lithium. E.g. lithium mining in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia has led to concerns over soil degradation, water shortages and contamination, air pollution and biodiversity loss.
  • Geological Stability: According to the seismic zonation map of India, the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, comes under seismologically active Zones IV and V and is also ecologically sensitive. Mining in geologically unstable region will be a major challenge.
  • Mining Policy: The absence of an integrated mining policy for strategic metalsand mineralsand poor domestic capabilities could hinder exploitation of the recently discovered reserves.
  • Security Threat: Certain terror groups have threatened against mining of lithium reserves. Security concerns can hamper development of mining industry, especially in attracting labour.
  • Availability of Technology: India lacks technology to extract lithium and purify it. There is no prior experience in extracting Lithium,nor tested domestic technology. There is lack of established Lithium extraction industry.

Government can make rare earth minerals a part of the ‘Make In India’ campaign, similar to China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative that focuses on new materials, including permanent magnets that are made using rare earth minerals.

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