Solutions To Two Basic Problems Of Rural India


The two most crippling problems of rural India — lack of electricity and clean drinking water — and their consequences on health and economy can be dealt with indigenously and simultaneously.
Village-level power plants that run on locally-produced renewable fuels like biogas, biodiesel, ethanol and pyrolysis oil can be set up. These internal combustion power plants, like diesel gensets, of 500 kW capacity each, can supply enough electricity for an average village with a population of 2,000-3,000.
In addition, the high temperature exhaust gases from these plants can easily distil or boil water via a suitably designed unit, which can be attached to the genset. A 500 kW power plant can produce about 1.5 lakh litres of clean drinking water every day.
In producing both electricity and clean water, the power plant efficiency will jump from the existing 35% to around 65%. Most of the energy of these gensets is lost in exhaust gases and cooling the engine. This energy can easily be utilised for distillation or boiling water.
A microutility company could own the plant, whose shares in turn could be owned by villagers, and be managed professionally, without the political pitfalls of a cooperative society. The micro-utility could also lease village-level transmission lines and infrastructure from the local State Electricity Boards (SEBs) at a ‘social cost’, based on the cost of electricity most SEBs charge farmers.
The gensets could be run on biogas, biodiesel, ethanol or pyrolysis oil.
Biogas, produced either from cow dung or any biomass, has been used for almost 100 years in India as cooking fuel. It can easily be used to run diesel gensets. The microutility could buy biomass residue from villages and use it to produce biogas.
Biodiesel, produced from non-edible oils like Karanja, Neem or Jatropha, can also be used by diesel gensets. There is a national technology mission on biodiesel, and large-scale plantation of some of these crops is planned. However, for it to become a viable alternative to diesel, it is necessary that the present crop yields are increased manifold.
In India, ethanol is produced mainly from molasses, a by-product of the sugar industry. However, with the government promoting a 5% ethanol mix in petrol for automotive uses, ethanol production needs to be increased. Other crops, which require less inputs than sugarcane and grow faster, can be used. Sweet sorghum is a multipurpose crop which produces grain, sweet juice from its stem and the bagasse is excellent as cattle feed.
Besides, it uses almost 50% less water than sugarcane and is a 4-month crop, so farmers can grow two crops/year on the same land. Sweet sorghum planted on the same area where grain or fodder sorghum is grown can yield about 2,000 million litres of ethanol and 10 million tonnes of grain every year.
Similarly, spoiled grain, which cannot be used for human or cattle consumption, can also be used for ethanol production via the starch hydrolysis route. Recently, US and European scientists successfully tested a technology for using any agricultural residue for ethanol production.
Pyrolysis oil is similar to diesel and can be used in the diesel gensets directly. It is produced by rapid combustion of dry agricultural residue. India produces more than 400 million tonnes of agricultural residue every year — potentially, pyrolysis oil equivalent to 86 million tonnes of diesel can be produced in a year. This is nearly 60% of the total oil demand of the country. This oil has been successfully tested in 5 MW diesel gensets in Europe.
Renewable liquid and gaseous fuel production in rural areas could become a Rs 20,000-30,000-crore/year industry, bringing wealth, electricity and water to villages. But for this plan to work, a national mission on electricity and
water production needs to be set up to provide grants for setting up such power plants and encourage government, corporate sector and NGO partnership in this area.


About dkshamli

I am a student with having a post-graduate and a professional teaching degrees. I am a single guy involved in computer technology and software developing business. Reading and surfing the web are my personal interests. Although i am a bit introvert but i have a good number of friends and i always try to make some more good friends to share myself with them.

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