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Empowering Sunderbans with rice husk

Jan 07, 2010

After years of waiting, 11 remote villages in the Sunderbans delta on the Indian side can finally look forward to getting electricity in the new year. Interestingly the electricity will be generated from rice husk.

Kolkata: According to the detailed project report prepared by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), among the villages that will benefit from the project are: Dayapara, Chimta, Puijali and Lahiripur in Gosaba block, Ghoramara, G-plot, and K-plot in Patharpratima block, Jogeshganj, Kalitala and Gobindakali in Hingalganj.

“The lives of the people living in Sunderbans have changed ever since a solar power plant was first set up in Sagar Island. Now, a number of solar photovoltaic power plants have come up in various islands in the Sunderbans. But we are yet to reach the interiors.

Since it would be very expensive to set up a solar panel for every residential unit, we have decided to shift to new energy — rice husk to electricity,” says S P Gon Chowdhury, director, WBREDA.

Another advantage is that unlike the solar power system, the “rice husk-to-electricity” project will provide round-the-clock electricity to the villagers.

The work of setting up biofuel grids will start in March, and is expected to be completed in April. As per the report, electricity will be supplied to 400 houses per village. A grid in a village will produce 200 kilowatt.

“We have already submitted a DPR to the Union Ministry for New and Renewable Energy. The estimated project cost is around Rs 40 crore, of which we will receive around Rs 30 crore from the Centre as grant. The remaining funds will be mobilised from private partners, as this is the first project of its kind which will be executed in a public-private partnership model,” said Gon Chowdhury.

The villagers are waiting with eager anticipation. “I never though that I would see a bulb in my house in my lifetime,” says Haradhan Chowdhury, 75, a resident of Puijali Village in Dhamakhali Island.

Bandana Patro, another villager, is looking forward to the day when her children will no longer have to depend on kerosene lamps to complete their school work after sundown. “The kerosene lamps are not bright enough. If we get electricity, our children can study properly,” she says.

Significantly, the rice husk-to-electricity project is already operating successfully in Bankura district of West Bengal, where a 10-MW biomass power plant has been set up on a 35-acre plot of land.

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