Biogas plants to be installed in 3,825 schools

The State government has allotted Rs. 8 crore to install portable biogas plants in schools to ensure cheap fuel for preparation of mid-day meals and food self-sufficiency.

The project will give students an opportunity to access organically grown vegetables for their noon meal.

But experts and academics say the project stands every chance of floundering unless there is ‘unconditional societal involvement’ to ensure the success of this food security measure in schools.

A Government Order (GO) issued by the Agriculture Department on December 13 says administrative sanction has been accorded to install biogas plants in 3,825 schools across the State.

The GO says the project is meant to provide effective bio-waste management and cheap and safe cooking gas for the preparation of mid-day meals for school students and provide enriched organic manure for school vegetable gardens. However, academics and school authorities point to two major restraints — summer holidays and lack of space in urban schools — in its applicability.

“A biogas plant hosts a colony of methanogen micro-organisms which produces methane gas and manure. If this colony is not provided waste for two weeks, the plant will become dysfunctional,” K. Prabhakaran, district vice-president of the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishath, says.

“Schools will be closed for 2.5 months every year. There will be no food waste during this time. Who will operate the plants during this time?” asks Beena Philip, Principal, Nadakkavu Girls Higher Secondary School in the city.

Kozhikode MLA, A. Pradeep Kumar, says it is ‘impractical’ to think that manure from the plant can be used in the school’s vegetable gardens.“Urban schools do not even have proper space for playgrounds, leave alone vegetable gardens on the school premises,” Mr. Kumar said. The situation in government schools in rural areas are more or less the same, Chandran K.M., Assistant Education Officer (Kozhikode City), says.

Balachandran Parachottil, Education Committee member with the Kozhikode district panchayat, says there is no point in investing public money without understanding the ground situation.

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