In Selaiyur, methane from sewage becomes cooking gas

Novel project by Tambaram municipality generates gas from sewage in Bharat Nagar public toilet

June 15, 2013 03:04 am | Updated 08:12 am IST - CHENNAI:

The gas will serve as fuel for 12 stoves, which can be used free of cost by residents — Photo: M. Srinath

The gas will serve as fuel for 12 stoves, which can be used free of cost by residents — Photo: M. Srinath

Residents of Bharat Nagar in Selaiyur now have access to free, eco-friendly gas for their kitchen use.

Tambaram municipality on Friday launched a bio-methanation plant that will produce gas from sewage generated in a public toilet. This comes in the wake of a good response to the municipality’s novel project, ‘Namma Toilet’ to improve sanitation in public places.

The methane gas will serve as fuel for 12 stoves which can be used free of cost by residents. The facility was formally launched at a function on Friday morning at Bharat Nagar in ward no. 21 of the municipality.

A marginalised area

In 1988, Rajiv Gandhi attended the Congress party’s session in Maraimalai Nagar. To widen Grand Southern Trunk for his convoy, people living on the margins were evicted and provided alternate accommodation in Bharat Nagar. Of the 292 households in this locality, 135 do not have individual toilets to this day.

In 2003, a public toilet was constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 lakh, but was shut down two years later due to lack of maintenance.

“All of us are daily wage earners. Our main grievance has been the lack of toilets. The women especially have been subject to severe inconvenience and embarrassment,” said R. Meena, a Bharat Nagar resident for 25 years.

A decision to spruce up the toilet was taken recently and it was suggested that a bio-methanation plant be added.

Municipal officials said separate toilets for women and men had been created and the sewage generated from them would accumulate in an elliptical digester sunk below the ground.

“The methane gas, generated naturally from the sewage, is directed through an overhead pipe which is then routed through smaller pipes to 12 conventional stoves in a separate kitchen located within the complex. It is free from malodour,” an official said.

The remaining sludge would, for the present, be flushed out through stormwater drains and linked to distribution pipes once the underground drainage project is completed here. User charges of Rs. 50 per family per month would be collected for the toilet facility and this revenue would be spent on its maintenance, the officials said.

K. Rajeswari, Meena’s neighbour, said, most families always ran out of their monthly quota of kerosene. “The liquefied petroleum gas cylinders are beyond our means. The free gas at the kitchen is a huge benefit to all of us,” she said.

Safe, easy to maintain

According to officials, there were no risks involved in the operation of the plant. The gas generated would be enough for 30 families to use the stoves for three hours each in the morning and evening, every day. In addition to the sewage, discarded vegetable waste from households and markets would be collected, shredded and fed into the digester tank, they said.

Officials added that with the spruced-up toilet in place, open defecation would be eliminated.

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