TMJ Special

VSO co-sponsors biogas plant in orphanage3 min read

May 1, 2013 3 min read


VSO co-sponsors biogas plant in orphanage3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Udupi: Several children stand clustered around a big, yellow medical bus, chattering excitedly. A few adults are scattered around, gently scolding and teasing the children in an attempt to make them behave in an orderly fashion and co-operate with the volunteers. The orphanage is noisier than usual since children from neighboring orphanages are here as well.

Sri Krishna Bal Niketan, an orphanage located in Kukkikate, Udupi is regularly visited by volunteers and medical professionals who spend their day with the children. Up until recently, it was in dire need of extra cylinders every month in order to feed the fifty children that stay there. Now, with one of their regular visitors, the members of the Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO), stepping in to help install a biogas plant, this problem of theirs will be alleviated soon.

The orphanage is under the Sri Krishna Sevadhama Trust and its secretary, Ramachandra Upadhyaya is its caretaker. In conversation with TMJ, he explains that apart from the six to seven LPG cylinders they require on a monthly basis, the orphanage operates using an astra chulha (wood stove), which uses firewood from their land. However, due to the price hikes and the government changes in policy on the number of subsidised cylinders allowed, they only receive a meager six cylinders a year. Moreover, since using firewood every day for the chulha was not practical, they were in desperate need for an alternative source of energy.

In their attempt to set up a biogas plant to compensate for the lack of sufficient energy, the orphanage ran into several glitches when the parties they approached for sponsorship weren’t sure about the feasibility of the idea. The orphanage caught a lucky break when VSO agreed to help them set it up and raise half of the Rs 45,000 required for the installation, provided the orphanage raised the other half. Prabhakar Sastri and Savita Sastri are the VSO members who are helping out with the project and the volunteers’ efforts helped to raise the money required by selling t-shirts.

The brains behind the biogas plant is Pratik Modi, a graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), whose focus is on producing biogas from kitchen waste. “Now, a biogas plant can be made differently, but the basic idea remains the same,” he adds while speaking of his involvement. “So far, biogas has been viewed more as a waste management option rather than for energy generation. But this is a good idea, and I am glad to be a part of it. This particular operation has been spearheaded by Prabhakar Sastri and Savita Sastri, they’ve made it happen. However, there are a large number of people who have contributed as well.”

The advantages of installing a biogas facility go beyond being economical. Speaking on the same, Modi says, “With the plant in place, they will come close to almost replacing LPG and also save money. They have a large plot which has a lot of different trees that currently contribute for the wood in the chulha. The waste from the biogas plant will thus contribute as a natural fertiliser to the trees. Moreover, as the plant will require approximately 10-15 kgs of waste a day, it will reduce the amount of waste thrown out.”

Prabhakar Sastri proudly acknowledges the efforts of all the students who contributed towards the cause. He said, “The plant will benefit the children who need all our help. The students of Manipal University contributed by ensuring that VSO sold all the shirts at Utsav. No project can be more appropriately called ‘team work’. The fraternity of Manipal has shown the way.”

The plant is expected to be in place by May 18.


Sub-edited by Bhavya Balakrishnan