Kitchen waste powers street lights

Mamallapuram.17.9.12 111The Mamallapuram  branch of Adyar Ananda Bhavan generates 30 kg. kitchen waste a day.  A seaside resort  across the East Coast Road accounts  for 10 times more of food waste.  There are 700 odd eateries in this tourist town.  Till about five years back,  food waste from  Mamallapuram restaurants and hotels  wound up at  the municipal landfill.

And then,  came a bio-gas plant that converts kitchen waste into electricity.  I don’t know who made the first move,  but Vivekananda Kendra –  a Kanyakumari based NGO –   designed and set up this plant,  on a reclaimed  patch  of the municipal garbage dump yard.  The  waste-to-energy plant  is run by another NGO – Hand-in-Hand.

Mr M Raja of  Hand-in-Hand who conducted us around the plant –  a group of  OMR Greens  members from Padur –  explained at length the waste-to-energy conversion process,  from door-step collection of food waste to transmission of the converted electricity that powered 25 street lights.  Over 40 waste collectors are engaged;  and their remunaration is covered by the collection charges paid by the eating houses.  A minimum levy for kitchen waste collection is Rs.50 a month  and the chrages vary in accordance with the quantum of food waste collection.

The Mamamallapuram  waste-to-energy plant is a collective enterprise,  of several stakeholders. The plant,  designed by an NGO, and located on panchayat land,  is run by another NGO,  with  monthly contributions by eateries.  The 10 kilowatts generator running on bio-gas produced by Kirloskars,   costing Rs.20 lakhs  (at the 2008 price level),  is a donation from Sweden.  Under the renewable energy programme  the town panchayat is eligible to Rs.4 lakh subsidy.

Mr Raja,  so knowledgeable on so many aspects,  couldn’t,  however, tell us  the one thing  we needed to know –  the unit cost for producing power from kitchen waste.  OMR Greens  would  want to sell this waste-t0-energy  proposal  to  Padur  panchayat  and other stakeholders.   Ideally,  there should be a waste-to-energy unit for every panchayat  and in setting it up all stakeholders in the neighbourhood  need to be involved –  residents,  other individuals and institutions  generating waste,  property developers responsible for mushrooming residential high-rises ,  and the panchayat.

A bio-gas plant developed by Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) lends itself to  decentralized waste disposal system. For a plant with capacity to process one tonne waste daily requires  no more than 300 sq.ft.  of land.  And a tonne of bio-degradeable waste can produce 25-30 kg. of methane,  about 150 kg. carbon dioxide and  nearly 60 kg of organic manure.  Besides kitchen and veg. market wastes,  and those generated in abattoirs,  the BARC bio-gas model can take in even hazardous biological sludge.

The plant,  they say can be operated by unskilled workers  such as rag-picker  Ramesh  and his folks at Padur .   All they require is one-month training.


Siragugal @ Ooty: Kalyani takes off

kalyaniIt has been a while since  I heard from my friend and blogger Kalyani in Ooty.  So  it was a pleasent surprise,  when I got a mail  from her the other day,  in her  avatar, as secretary,  Siragugal.

The last time  we interacted,  this was a few years back , she said the library she started for municipal school kids  wasn’t setting the Ooty lake on fire.  In a blogpost last month  kalyani wrote, ‘ children drop in at the library sporadically’  and those showing up on a given Sat. didn’t necessarily turn up the subsequent weekend – ‘so its hard to sustain any program’.

That was when Kalyani had occasion to attend a PTA meeting at Thalaiyattumund Municipal school,  and interact with some parents.  What did they want their children to learn ?  To speak English,  to learn Hindi, computer, karate, drawing…. the sort of things children  didn’t get at a municipal school,  but would need to get ahead in life.

Reinventing itself in 2013,  Siragugal has started  a three-month  ‘Speak English’  programme for 20 municipal school kids.  An Omni van transports them to Siragugal  library daily  after school.  The parents are asked to  pay Rs.500 per month towards transport and so they have a greater sense of commitment,  says Kalyani. She adds that they use material bought from Eureka, Chennai…Every week they pick a topic,  teach  vocabulary, with stress on dialogue,  question and answer, related educational games and activities. Volunteers are welcome to drop in,  so that children can interact with people from varied walks of life.  Saturdays are for painting, games and much else.

The next time you happen by Ooty, do  find time to drop in at  Siragugal for an evening with Kalyani’s  children.  Her mail

Students for community service

posterA couple of college boys  (KSR College, Tiruchengode)  hit upon a community initiative to address food wastage by customers in restaurants.  They got a poster printed ,  showing  photo of a needy child  with empty plate.  The message :  ‘Please don’t waste food….wrap it’.

Palaniappan, and  Mohammed Ali, both engineering students, with Merwin Wesley,  found waste of  food by people visiting restaurants unacceptable and decided to do something about it.  The boys designed and printed about 4,000  ‘don’t-waste-food’ posters and distributed in restaurants and eating house in several Tamil Nadu towns, through a network of volunteer students.  They have mobilised over 100 volunteers in 17 towns.

Muhammad Ali – 0-8122139893- and Palaniappan – 0-9500488803 –   registered a society SEEDS.   They conduct awareness programme  to curb wastage of food, household  energy consumption  and conserve  other resources.  Their student volunteers  visit old age homes. With guidance from college alumni, SEEDS conduct counseling sessions in schools for Plus 1 and Plus 2 students  on choice of courses and subjects for higher education.

Interestingly,  the focus of SEEDS  initiative is on smaller towns – Dharmapuri, Erode, Darapuram, Bhavani, Attur, Mettur, Udmelpet, Hosur and Sathy. They  have volunteer representation in some  bigger cities as well – Trichy,  Selam,  Coimbatore, Tirupur,  and Chennai  (volunteers – Sibi Rajan and Rahul).

SEEDS approached 20 schools in Mettupalayam,  Erode and Tirupur,  asked students to come up with 15 suggestions to conserve electricity… School students are involved in household energy auditing in their neighbourhood, and community tree-planting in their localities.  During Deepavali,  SEEDS ogranised  door-to-door and distributed 5,000 pamphlets on how firecrackers pollute environment.

Says SEEDS president Muhammad Ali:  “We don’t approach the Government; instead we go to people. They have supported us. Some people have thrown the pamphlets back on our faces, we take it in our stride.”

Secretary Palaniappan: “I used to spend my pocket money on mobile recharge and snacks. Now, I save it to buy gifts for school children as we conduct a number of competitions for school students.”

Volunteering at a Bangalore orphanage

Lisa from New Hampshire plans to spend the summer in Bangalore on volunteer work at an orphanage. “This is my first trip to India and my first time volunteering in an orphanage,” she e-mailed. Googling for ideas on how she could make her work meaningful Lisa happened by an earlier post in this blog.

Lisa is among the 60 million Americans who take to volunteer work in their neighbourhood, or farther away from home during summer break. A report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people between the ages of 34 and 54 are the most likely to volunteer; and they do so for various reasons – a need to help out, do good, give back. Or maybe it’s boredom that drives many to volunteering; a desire to meet new people; or, as NYT report put it, ‘concern that one’s obituary won’t (otherwise) have much to say’.

I can’t help feeling that a sense of adventure, coupled with the spirit of volunteerism, has been a factor in Lisa’s decision to make her first trip to India, volunteering for the first time to work at an orphanage.

Here’s what she says in her mail: I am a teacher in New Hampshire and I volunteer in afterrnoon programs for kids here all of the time.  I am constantly trying to combine children having fun and children learning. 
I have been trying to think of ways I could help the children I will be working with this summer in Bangalore – besides teaching them and caring for them , bringing them gifts, starting fundraisers in the US (where I live) for them etc….  I thought about taking them someplace special… and the zoo idea came about.  that’s how I “googled and found” you!
I was wondering if this is something feasible – of course I would have to discuss this with the people in charge of the orphanage,,,,
I was wondering where/if I could find some type of transportation to rent – a school bus or something to bring the 40 children on an outing.
I was also wondering if the zoo is the place of choice to bring these children to.  I would want them to 1) have fun 2) get out of the orphanage 3) learn something….
If you or anyone you know could help me with this, I would much appreciate it!