Waste fuels community kitchen

Women cooking in the community kitchen at Viragupettai in Tiruchi. — PHOTO: M. MOORTHY  

A community kitchen fuelled by methane that has been generated from the faecal waste of a nearby toilet complex and discarded vegetables from the Gandhi Market is setting a new benchmark in eco-friendly sanitation technology in the city.

The biogas settler project, worth Rs. 40 lakh, has been constructed by the Tiruchi City Corporation in Viragupettai, a former open firewood market and ground that was being used for open defecation on East Boulevard Road. It has been functional since February. The toilet complex and kitchen are being managed by the sanitation non-governmental organisation (NGO) Gramalaya, through its WAVE federation of self-help groups.

The technological know-how for the plant has been provided by the Namakkal-based Sundaram Fab, a firm with 25 years’ experience in biogas generation projects.

The Corporation is looking into replicating the success of the project in other economically deprived areas of the city as well. “Another bio-digester plant has been proposed at the Woraiyur market that will be attached to a community kitchen,” Corporation Commissioner N. Ravichandran told The Hindu. He added that the Rs. 25-lakh project was expected to benefit at least 100 families on the Kalnaickan Street.

Methanisation is the decomposition of organic matter without oxygen by microbial ecosystems. It produces a gas, called biogas, made up of methane and carbon dioxide.

In the Viragupettai project, the bio-methanisation plant needs 500-600 kg of bio-degradable waste. Around 100-150 kilos are from the toilets and the remaining 450-500 kilos are sourced from the Corporation’s solid waste collection. The waste form the toilets and vegetable waste are fed directly into the reactor through underground drainage pipes.

The kitchen that neighbours the reactor has 16 single-hob stoves that can be used throughout the day.

“The total capacity of gas produced from the bio-methanisation plant is 30 cubic metres. Out of this 8 cu.m is used for the plant’s need and 22 cu.m for the community kitchen,” said Amuthavalli, Executive Engineer of Tiruchi Corporation.

The urban slum of Viragupettai has 2,000 residents. “The kitchen is free for those living in the slum. Most of these people are often forced to cook with firewood stoves on the pavement because their tenements are very small. This hall gives them an opportunity to make food in a hygienic manner,” said X. Selva Mary, a WAVE volunteer at the project.

The slurry water is directed to a collection pond with water hyacinth and fish, while the overflow is used as liquid manure for plants.

The Viragupettai toilet complex (segregated for men, women and children) was built in 2001 by Gramalaya with funding from the international charity Water Aid, as part of its public hygiene campaign against open defecation.

The well-maintained area bears no resemblance to its earlier life as a ground notorious for overflowing faecal matter.

Today, two women staff members from self-help groups are in charge of maintaining the complex. Separate workers are employed to clean the toilets daily. A Re. 1 token allows the families in the slum to use the toilet multiple times a day. Other users, such as those frequenting the markets and temples nearby, are charged per visit. “We are able to save around Rs.1,000 from the user fees, which we reinvest in maintenance work,” said Gramalaya volunteer Shanmughavalli. “We hope more areas in Tiruchi will be able to create similar eco-friendly hygiene projects.”

Tiruchi Corporation generates 469 tonnes of garbage at the rate of 417 grams per capita. Of this, 60 per cent of waste is bio-degradable, said Corporation sources.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 12:18:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/Waste-fuels-community-kitchen/article14626927.ece

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