The Columbia University chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA is developing an environmentally friendly micro-hydro power system for a rural village in Kalahandi District, Orissa, India. This project will provide power for water purification, irrigation pumping, vaccine refrigeration, a grain mill, and lighting, directly improving the quality of life of and generating livelihoods ership of the system as well as a working knowledge of its operation and maintenance. for 1,750 - 2,000 inhabitants within a 10km (~6miles) range of the facilities. The project will also have a significant educational component, training the villagers in the construction, operation and maintenance of such a system as well as providing lights for a school. We are working closely with local NGO Gram Vikas (www.gramvikas.org), which has a strong presence in the region and has successfully implemented micro-hydro projects in the Kalahandi district over the past few years. The initial steps of the project have already been completed in the last years and the power system will be fully functional in summer 2008.
WHO WE ARE
CU-EWB was founded in 2004 by four Columbia University students as a recognized student chapter of Engineers Without Borders – USA (EWB-USA). CU-EWB has had tremendous success in its brief history, completing projects in both Thailand and Ghana with both projects receiving awards from EWB-USA. The first project, construction of a health clinic in Samli, Thailand in the spring of 2004 was a joint effort between CU-EWB and UCLA-EWB. CU-EWB then began its efforts in Ghana with the construction of a sanitation facility in Obodan, Ghana in the summer of 2005. CU-EWB is committed to forming long-term relationships with communities. To this end, the chapter completed a follow-up project in Thailand during 2005 and continues to work in Ghana. In early 2006, CU-EWB began collaboration with Gram Vikas (GV) on a regional electrification and development program in Orissa, India. CU-EWB has completed all the initial steps for the micro-hydro project and implementation should be finished in summer 2008.
Although the urban areas of India continue to grow at a breakneck pace, rural areas are often neglected and share no part of booming economy. One such rural area is the tri-village cluster of Purnaguma, in Kalahandi, the poorest district in Orissa. The village population is primarily tribal and low-caste individuals who have been left behind by India's rapid developments; every family lives below poverty line. At present, the community relies on firewood and animal waste matter as an energy source for lighting and cooking. Furthermore, the lack of a lighting source reduces available work hours in a day, severely decreasing productivity. The children are affected because they are unable to attend school; they are needed to work in the fields during the day, but have insufficient lighting to study at night. Although Purnaguma’s extremely remote geography has made it difficult to receive grid power provided by the government, this same terrain makes it ideal for the installation of an eco-friendly micro-hydro system. PtP and GV have designed this alternative energy source to jumpstart the economic and social progress necessary for the development of this village.
The primary goal of this project is to design and construct a micro-hydro power system in the village cluster of Purnaguma. This will provide roughly 10 kW of power in the season of lowest flow, allowing the use of indoor and outdoor lighting, a mechanical water pump, grain mill, a fridge for vaccine storage and possibly a computer in the school. Site surveys of the region have shown that Purnaguma is an ideal candidate for a micro-hydro system from an engineering perspective because of the proximity of a fast-flowing river with a high head and low turbidity. Micro-hydro is an excellent solution as it is has minimal environmental footprint, and does not induce the side-effects of major hydro power plants in which the river is dammed and diverted. Due to its small size, no populations are displaced, no habitats are destroyed, and no seismic instabilities are introduced to the region by the micro-hydro system.
PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION
In summer 2007, CU-EWB sent a team of 4 students to work with the people of Orissa as well as to strengthen bonds with our partner NGO, Gram Vikas. During their eight week investigation the team traveled throughout the region collecting extensive social, environmental, health and engineering data. Their on the ground reports confirmed Purnaguma as an ideal candidate for such a project. In addition to the proposed site, the team surveyed numerous other locations for future projects. After the team returned from India, CU-EWB finalized the micro-hydro system design and worked with Gram Vikas to begin organizing construction of the system.
In winter 2007, another CU-EWB team traveled to Orissa to begin the implementation and construction of the power system. Gram Vikas engineers and local village laborers worked cooperatively to install parts of the micro-hydro system. In summer 2008, another team is scheduled to go to India and help in the completion and testing of the system. (Detailed trip reports and schedules available upon request.)
The project recently received notification from the EPA of an intent to award a Phase I P3 grant of US$10,000 dollars. We also received a US$15,000 grant from Environmental Resource Management Corporation. Between these two grants, the bulk cost of all the equipment and labor required for the project is covered. However, a funding gap of US$13,550 remains. The micro-hydro system cannot be completed unless full funding is obtained.
A cornerstone of GV’s philosophy is to implement systems that guarantee success through community involvement. GV begins each project by collecting a village corpus fund in which each household contributes to the cost of the project; for this project, each household is expected to pay a total of 250 Indian rupees (US$6.00). While insufficient to fund the project, it marks a significant investment because it ensures village commitment through a feeling of propriety. This guarantees the village’s responsibility towards the system, even once GV has decreased its presence in the community. The corpus fund for Purnaguma is almost 70% complete, and is expected to be fully collected at the end of March 2008. Moreover, the extensive training of the villagers and their full involvement at every stage will give them the knowledge and ability to independently set up similar projects in neighboring areas. In turn, this encourages local entrepreneurship and will lead to an increase in sustainable development in the greater region.
The completion of the project will bestow innumerable new possibilities for the villagers of Purnaguma and surrounding regions. This project will have a direct impact on over 2,000 including the residents of the PG village cluster and environs. It will provide power for vaccine storage, well pumps, water sanitation equipment, lighting and a computer for the school. It will impact additional villages in the surrounding region by providing facilities that are far more accessible than the distant and over-crowded facilities in Bhawanipatna, the district capital. The residents of the community will be involved at every stage of this process and will have complete own
TWe are seeking to help an impoverished rural village transform into a peaceful, sustainable community where everyone can live with dignity. Not only will the project allow Purnaguma to finally become self-sustainable, but also create a lasting infrastructure that has far reaching network effects and potentials. The project is a reminder that even small amounts of capital injected into worthy causes will benefit those for many generations to come.