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.


Snails crossing: Tread carefully

OMR Sights 025Padur lake viewed from my 9th floor apartment on Chennai’s  OMR

I have heard Padur residents get water supplied from a  lake in their backyard. Truckloads of water Mantri Synergy residents used to get before borewells in their complex got  activated was,  presumably,  sourced from this lake.  Oddly enough,  I didn’t, till now,  bring myself to visiting  the lake that I can view  from my high-rise.  Trip to the lake entails a walk through narrow, not so clean,  street through  Padur.    A  lakeside walk early this morning proved educative, if  thought-provoking. Winding our way through the unmade road my wife and I felt  embarrassed, on occasions,  at,  what may well be a common sight for the locals .  It was as if, with our appearance,  we intruded on the early morning  routine of some people. Their tell-tale movement  close to the lake, so early in the day,  suggest the following:
1) There is a crying need for a row of public toilets, well watered through a pipeline  from the lake,  for the benefit of those now using lakeside bushes for the purpose.
2) The water body needs to be fenced off in populated segments , making  it inaccessible to public.
3) The muddy pathway that runs along the lake is so littered with snails that there is case for a signpost, saying,  ‘Snails Crossing: Tread/Drive Carefully’.

Snails, out and about in scores, had the run of the road , in early mornings. Snails, they say, move about at night, and hibernate during the day. They detest brightness of the sun. And before the sun came up the snails seem to be ‘hurrying’ to their hideouts. Speaking of snail’s pace, they say  the fastest of the species can move 50 yards per hour.

The need for fencing off the lake can’t be overstated. Tamil Nadu water  supply undertaking has a pumping station that was put up five years back  under a community drinking water supply scheme  funded by the Asian Development Bank.  Lake-fencing, and provision of public toilets, which might not have been necessary when the drinking water scheme was launched,  in 2008,  now appears  critical to the continued  survival of the lake as a source of water for the ever growing Padur and its OMR neighbourhood.

Suggestion: Engineering students/faculty in neighbourhood  institutions such as Hindustan University  and Mohd. Sathak Engineering College can take up Padur lake improvement as a class project. The project report they come up with can become a campaign theme for OMR Greens for mobilizing public support for implementation of the lake conservation scheme.

Snails ln the lakeside road


Sourced from OMR Resident


A meal ticket for the needy

Harsh Mander in  a recent magazine  piece in The Hindu  refers to sale of food token by wayside eateries at  Jama Masjid  and Nizamuddin areas  in Delhi. Idea  is customers can buy these plastic tokens  for hand-outs among the needy in the  neighbourhood. Recipients can exchange the plastic token for a take-away  parcel anytime over a period of one month. The food token system  adopted by eating houses is relevant in the context of ,  what Mr Mander terms,  erosion of  religious charity  traditions .

Poor-feeding m-jan-14-10-019A scene outside Raghavendra temple at Narayana Sastri Road, Mysore.

A survey of places of worship in Delhi  found little evidence of  Christian food charities  in the city ;  mosques no longer opened  their doors to the homeless and hungry; and Hindu temples,  mostly served sweet and oily food sporadically, on fixed sacred days, and rarely with dignity.   Eating houses selling  plastic tokens  in Delhi are located in the vicinity of  places of worship that attract alms seekers.  It is a business model adopted by  eating houses ,  for the benefit  charity-minded pilgrims.

The food token system can be adopted for a drive against hunger,  elsewhere in the country.   Traders and restaurant owners associations in various localities should take a lead.  An operating system for the issue of tokens  can be  evolved by management experts.  MBA students can take it up as class project.  OMR Greens  would welcome an initiative  in this regard by management students at   Hindustan University.  We can approach traders association and eating houses at  Padur-Kelambakkam area  with a project proposal.

The  ‘luncheon voucher’  and  ‘food coupons’  issued by IT companies to employees can be a working model for restaurant and  traders associations to adopt.   Food token can be  priced on cost-sharing basis, and  all three stake holders –  traders body, eating houses in a locality, and their customers who buy the food tokens –   would be  partners  in a  CSR project (community social responsibility) to work for freedom from hunger..