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Monday, May 21, 2012

At a time when people are grappling with the shortage of kerosene and cooking gas not to mention the crippling power cuts, biogas plants should have been the most effective source of fuel for cooking, at least in rural areas.
However, two community biogas plants installed by the Thanthai Periyar Government Institute of Technology (TPGIT), Vellore, in Kattuputhur village panchayat five years ago are in a state of disuse.
Enquiries with the residents reveal that the plants suffered owing to the lack of proper follow-up by the village panchayat. There is one more contributory factor: the villagers themselves are not dependent on the plants. As most of them are employed in government, defence service or private sector, they have LPG connections and induction stoves.
This throws up the question on the identification of suitable village for biogas plant projects.
Located in Kaniyambadi panchayat union, the two community biogas plants were set up by the TPGIT in 2007 at a cost of Rs.8 lakh under the Institute's Service to the Community and Economy scheme, with funds from the World Bank-aided Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQUIP).
The project originally envisaged the supply of cow dung from houses to the plants for the production of methane gas, which, in turn, would fuel stoves in the kitchens. Pipelines were laid from the plants to houses for supply biogas.
Another objective was to enable the village panchayat produce vermi compost using the huge volume of dung and improve its income by selling the vermi-compost, which was expected to fetch about Rs.1000 a day.
About 60 houses in the village lit their stoves with biogas from these plants. After a few months, the plants became defunct.
According to some villagers, the community biogas plants could be revived if only the village panchayat takes sincere steps.
K. Viswanathan, former president of the panchayat, during whose tenure the project was implemented, says the project failed because of a flaw in the size of pipes used. As only 3/4-inch pipes were laid from the plants to the houses for supplying the gas, which resulted in poor flow delaying the cooking. Two-inch pipes should have been provided. He contends there is nothing wrong per se with the concept of biogas plants. To substantiate his point, he says at least 20 households have set up individual biogas plants, which are working.
Mr. Viswanathan has not given up the hope of the plants resuming operations. He is trying to get the services of a German non-governmental organisation to help revive the project by repairing the plants.


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