Turning obstacle into opportunity in Tamil Nadu

By ETB SivapriyanonJul. 13, 2021in Economics and Technologies

Varadharajapuram, a peri-urban area very close to Chennai, had a peculiar problem. With nearly 400 cattle and bereft of any vacant land, villagers began dumping cow dung in its large water body, thereby polluting it.

The bio-gas plant set up at Rs 60 lakhs by Carbon Loop, a start-up, in collaboration with the Tiruvallur District Rural Development Agency now produces 200 units of electricity per day that is enough to light up the street lights in the village near Poonamallee off the Chennai-Bengaluru Highway. Credit: Special Arrangement

Varadharajapuram, a peri-urban area very close to Chennai, had a peculiar problem. With nearly 400 cattle and bereft of any vacant land, villagers began dumping cow dung in its large water body, thereby polluting it.

Cut to July 2021. The water body is not just clean but the street lights in the village are now being powered by electricity that is generated out of the cow dung from its large cattle population and food waste. Not just that, the residual manure is now used to grow chilli and bananas in an area of 2 acres in the district.

The bio-gas plant set up at Rs.60 lakhs by Carbon Loop, a start-up, in collaboration with the Tiruvallur District Rural Develeopment Agency ow produces 200 units of electricity per day, that is enough to light up the street lights in the village near Poonamallee of the Chennai-Bengaluru Highway.

Though the plant was inaugurated in January this year, the production and powering of street lights took some time due to the Covid-19 lockdown. The lights were switched on to clean energy last week and buoyed by success, the district administration is planning to replicate the model in at least two more villages.

“Our village has always had a huge cattle population as the primary occupation of our people is to sell milk. Since the village lacked a drainage facility, people began dumping cow dung on the water body polluting it completely. Today we are generating electricity from the cow dung and powering our village lights,” V Kalaiarasu, President of Varadharajapuram panchayat, told DH.

The village, which has 920 households and a population of 4,300 persons, will now save nearly Rs.1 lakh in electricity bills as Carbon Loop plans to power borewells and other equipment through clean power. The village panchayat pays nearly Rs.1.30 lakh as charges for the electricity it consumes.

“We are happy that the street lights in Varadharajapuram are now powered through clean energy generated out of waste, especially cow dung. The biogas plant has now lit up the entire village and we are elated that the residual manure is being used to grow bananas and chilli,” Kern Agarwal, Director, Carbon Loop, told DH.

The biogas plant can handle two metric tonnes of waste at a time. The cow dung that is flushed in the village is collected and dumped at the biogas facility by sanitary workers every day which is then converted into clean energy. Agrawal added that the residual manure generated from the waste will be helpful for 100 farmers in the district to take up organic farming.

Alby John, Tiruvallur District Collector, told DH: “It is a great initiative where a long-standing local problem was solved with technology. Such local solutions will help us a lot in addressing the bigger issue of solid waste management.”

First published by Deccan Herald on 13 July 2021 under the title Turning obstacle into an opportunity: How a Tamil Nadu village solved its problem

Watch a video report on the same initiative A village is turning cow dung to electricity

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