Thursday, August 17, 2017
Inspiration:The power of a dream lights up lives in this village
How Mankulam became the first village to power itself
The alluring power of the Nakshathrakuthu waterfalls near Mankulam in the district, was imposing enough to incite a profound idea that put the sleepy hamlet on the national map in 2004.Village authorities used the power of the waterfall to set up a mini hydroelectric project and electrified the power-starved village, home to mostly Muthuvan and Mannan tribespeople. That way, Mankulam became the first grama panchayat in the country to generate its own electricity.Surrounded on three sides by forest, the village’s endeavour was probably prompted by need. Till 2002, when the idea was conceived by its head man Mathew Jose, the panchayat did not get electricity from Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), the State power utility. The remoteness of the place was a reason; supply lines had to be drawn from Adimaly over a stretch of over 30 kilometre through mostly forest areas to bring power to the village. This apart, power connection was also a costly affair.But in two years since the idea was mooted, the village was electrified utilising 100 KW power from the unit on the foothill of the waterfall and nearly 300 houses got power through a 11kV substation, Mr. Jose told The Hindu . Also, low tension lines were drawn to supply power till the main town.Anil Antony, one of the three staff of the panchayat manning the power generation unit, said two 50-kw turbines were brought from China for the unit. The initial investment was Rs. 50 lakh including the cost of the construction of the power generation unit.
The marked feature is that the water is diverted through the penstock pipe from the uphill area without marring the beauty of the waterfall. The tail water is released to the same stream through two openings from the unit.There was a five-year period when the unit did not function. This was after the KSEB started supplying electricity to the village. It was then decided to sell low tension lines and power to the KSEB on an agreement. Now, electricity is given to the KSEB at a unit price of Rs. 4.88.“If there is some repair work by the KSEB workers on its lines, the turbines will automatically stop,” said Mr. Antony, who was with the power unit right from the time of its installation.
Stream dries up
The unit is on a full-time working mode now. The stream was a perennial one and the water flow would be normal even during extreme summer, said Mr Antony. Only last summer, the harsh heat brought down water flow in the stream, probably for the first time in its natural history. Power generation had to be stopped for 15 days then. Many tourists visited the power generation unit, Mr. Antony said.The idea and the model has immense potential in the area, which still has isolated settlements where electricity is yet to reach. That way, there is lots to dream and do.