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  Water wheels keep spinning

Here are a couple of delightful stories on the adoption of low power micro hydel schemes as viable community development tools.

The first is from Himachal Pradesh where an entrepreneur, Vinod Bharadwaj has set up a 1 mw hydel power station that has altered lives in 700 homes spread over 12 remote villages around Raskat in the Kullu Valley. From nearly no power these villages have in a flash, arrived at having it 24/7! One of the innovations of these hilly habitats is the ropeway trolleys. These convey various goods and produce from hill top to hill top to valleys. They save punishing hikes with heavy back loads. Since Bharadwaj’s reliable power system came up, over 40 electric ropeway trolley businesses, --each costing Rs.100,000-- have been built by small businessmen. The power station has also brought Maney Chand Verma,33 from running a soul-less lift in a Delhi high-rise to a well paid job as the engineer in charge of the Raskat power station. You can read the full story at this link. There has been an extra spin-off too:  in order to prevent landslides that affect his business, Bharadwaj has taken to planting thousands of trees to stabilise the slopes.

Our next story is based on a report by Dilip D’Souza that appeared in the Times of India, Jan 23,2003. It comes from the village of Bilgaon in Nandurbar District, Maharashtra. Two young engineers from Kerala, Anil and Madhu have created a small hydel power station. D’Souza describes the landscape beautifully: “Bilgaon sits on a spur formed by two rivers, the Udai and the Titodi, that meet in a spectacular waterfall at the point of the spur… their joint waters meander through the hills for a few kilometres before emptying into the Narmada.” The small power station has brought electricity for the first time ever to 2000 people living in 20 hilly hamlets. All these participated in helping Anil and Madhu in building the small barrage, the penstock and power station.

In a development that will please micro hydel enthusiasts, Kerala Government and a Chinese company signed an agreement a few months ago to manufacture power generation equipment in Kerala. The Chines partner is INSHP [International Network of Small Hydro Power] in which UNIDO is a partner. INSHP has commissioned over 45,000 micro hydel stations world wide.

Finally we take note of the honour that has come the way of Dr.Anil Joshi who has done pioneering work in modernising the traditional water mills of Himachal Pradesh. GoodNewsIndia reported this in an earlier article. Now the Week magazine has named him their Man of the Year. There is more to Joshi than just water wheels. He has transformed the local economies of hundreds of villages. It is well worth your time to read the profile of this good Indian.