Electricity comes much cheaper to those villages in Uttarakhand who are generating their own power through micro hydel plants
In water resource-rich Uttarakhand many villages still remain to be connected to a power grid, Genwali is one such. However, the difference is that this remote village along with several others gets their supply of electricity from their very own power generating units.
For Genwali, about 15 kms from Boodha-kedar, a place of pilgrimage in Tihri district, electricity is generated from the 20 kv hydel power station set up in the village in the year 2000 by an alumnus of IIT Delhi, Yogeshwar Kumar. According to Kumar, the villagers carried all the material for setting up the project at Genwali which even today is not connected by road. A young man from the village Vir Singh trained by Kumar operates the power station and the villagers are charged a flat Rs 50 per month.
Not too very far from Genwali, but connected by road is village Agunda. Agunda too has its own power station. The people in the village refused to get connected to the power grid and opted instead for setting up their own micro hydel power project. The gram panchayat gave this in writing to the concerned authorities when the village was about to be connected to a power grid. The villagers, who run their own power station, say that the supply from the power grid to most villages is disrupted frequently and there are power cuts for several hours.
The micro hydel power project in Agunda too was set up by Yogeshwar, but this time with the help of voluntary organisation Jan Samarath with assistance from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and UNDP. The 40 kw project, completed in 2008, not only supplies electricity to 60 households of the village but also to two schools and an inter college. There is also sufficient power to run flour and oil mills and paddy hullers. What is more, the villagers have to pay just two rupees a unit and Rs 20 for the meter. The meter charges go towards maintenance purposes and the salary of two trained youth from the village who operate the power station. The villagers use electricity according to their own requirements and regulate it accordingly. An Urja Samiti with representation from the village Panchayat and the Gram Sabha has been set up to resolve all issues connected with the hydro power project, says one of its member, Bishen Singh Rawat.
Because of the low tariff, the villagers have started using electrical appliances like refrigerators, television sets, irons, heaters and even electric kettles. This has lessened the burden on the women folk who have to walk for miles to fetch firewood for fuel every day.
The women in the village want to set up a centre for grinding masalas and other food processing units. There is also a proposal to install common washing machines for the community. They feel this will not only help them earn an income, but also reduce their drudgery.
Yogeshwar Kumar has so far helped set up 15 micro hydel power stations in villages, hamlets and even for some civil society organisations in and outside the State. He says that in Uttarakhand specially, where most villagers use firewood for fuel, if they have their own micro power generating units they would get electricity at much cheaper rates and hence would not put a burden on the forests and pollute the air. Because of environmental concerns and displacement of people caused by big dams, more and more micro mini and small hydel power projects are coming up. Keeping that in view Jan Samarath, with the help of the government, is conducting training programmes for the village youth to be able to help in carrying out surveys, preparation of feasibility studies, installation of power projects and equipment, basic repairs, maintenance and management of such projects. This would also help solving the problem of unemployment among the youth, says Kumar.