And then, there was light...

In spite of all talk of development, there are hundreds of villages in Kodagu district still shrouded in darkness. The Central government’s Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification project hasn’t been implemented properly, owing to many hurdles. The highly ambitious project hasn’t helped residents much at all.

But, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. In fact, a bright ray of hope.
The Dharmasthala Rural Development project has taken it upon itself to set up many mini hydel projects in the district to ensure that these villages have electricity.
That the district is blessed with many small cascades goes without saying. However, not many waterfalls were tapped for power generation so far. The Dharmasthala scheme is trying to do exactly that. They have taken up the task of channelising this water by way of a network of pipes and run through small turbines set up in individual courtyards. Thanks to the force at which water is made to flow through them, the wheels turn and generate electricity. This can light up at least five to six light bulbs in every home, and power a television too.

This system has an edge over the other forms of power supply. It has meant that there is no need to clear tens of kilometres of forest land to set up electric poles, and draw power cables.

This system is environment-friendly in that sense. Also, those houses that have been powered by the mini hydel projects don’t have the hassle of paying electricity bills. There is also the advantage of not having to face power cuts that are the norm when there are high-velocity winds and heavy rain.

One-time investment
This is a one-time investment, and is useful for people in rural areas. The cost of laying pipes, and setting up turbines could run into anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 15,000. The Dharmasthala project in the district is being implemented at a cost of Rs 13 lakh. Beneficiaries under this scheme are given a financial aid of Rs five lakh.
Also, as part of the mini-hydel project, two-three megawatts of power that is generated will be provided to 50 to 60 families of a particular village.  Kodagu has no dearth of natural water resources. The water bodies here hardly go dry, ensuring that the hydel projects run at full steam for a major part of the year. There is a possibility of a water crisis only in the summer months of March, April and May. Kodagu’s many villages still don’t have proper roads, drinking water and electricity. The houses are spaced far apart from each other, somewhere in the middle of the forests, and the cost of providing power to these homes could run into at least Rs one lakh. This is the principal reason for the failure of the centre’s rural electrification scheme.
Dharmsthala’s Dharmadhikari Veerendra Heggade recently kickstarted 100 mini hydel power projects. This has brought smiles to the faces of villagers here. They have often demanded 24-hour power supply from the government, in vain. Then, their demand for additional supply of kerosene because Kodagu is a hilly region, has also fallen on deaf ears. In fact, there has been a cut in the present supply of kerosene that they get as part of their ration.

Change has come to Kodagu
The sight of an electric pole uprooted, and a cable snapped is common in Kodagu. This plunges villages into darkness for days on end. Today, though, the situation has changed.

For villages of Madenadu, Tannimani, Kaatakeri, Gaalibeedu, Kakkabe, Maragodu, Chembu and Peraje, the mini-hydel project has come as a boon.
The Dharmasthala scheme has indeed gone a long way in changing their lives, forever.
(Translated by Savitha Karthik)

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