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  • Mini hydel project electrifies village in Maharashtra

    A micro hydel project has brought light to the tribal village of Bilgaon in northern Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district. Work on the project was begun in mid-2002 by activists from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the People’s School of Energy (PSE), Kerala, and the villagers of Bilgaon. Within six months, 13.5 km of wiring had been completed.

    Designed by the PSE, the hydel project taps power from a natural waterfall. The 15 kW of electricity produced is adequate to light all 12 padas (hamlets) that fall within four kilometres of this tribal village. A two-metre-high check dam stores 15 lakh litres of water, which is channelled into a tank with a storage capacity of 30,000 litres. Water flows at the rate of 400 litres a second, from a height of eight metres, to drive a turbine. This, in turn, drives a generator at the rate of 1,500 rotations per minute (rpm).

    The Bilgaon micro hydel project was inaugurated in January 2003 by Maharashtra’s minister for rural development R R Patil.

    Ravi Kuchimanchi, a NBA activist and volunteer with the Association for India’s Development, compares this project to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). While the Bilgaon project lights up the 12 hamlets of Bilgaon village, the SSP dam produces very little electricity; none of the adivasi villages will become electrified. The installation cost of the Bilgaon project is Rs 40,000/kW; in the SSP it is Rs 56,000/kW. Thirty-three tribal villages in Maharashtra and tens of thousands of hectares of forestland are being submerged by the Sardar Sarovar dam. The Bilgaon project has not affected the environment. Based on the principles of sustainability and equitable sharing, the project’s water channel, for instance, was constructed by digging through rock to avoid the submergence of agricultural land.

    All the work done on the Bilgaon project was shramdan (voluntary), saving Rs 2.5 lakh in the eight months of work.

    During the monsoons, the village will have electricity round the clock. When there is less water, there will be four hours of supply in the evening. During the day, the electricity generated will be used to pump drinking water and for livelihood activities.

    Easier access to water has meant that the villagers can plan a second crop. The turbine also drives a mill. Equitable usage of electricity is ensured, as every family is a member of the Bilgaon Navnirman Samiti. Energy use has been prioritised, with preference given to the lighting of homes, pumping of drinking water, community agriculture, livelihood-creation and entertainment.

    There are five television sets in the village. Electricity charges are fixed at Rs 10 a tubelight and Rs 30 a television, a month.

    Source: Frontline

    October 24, 2003

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