While countries like US, UK are heading now to renewables installing huge solar & windfarm innovatively, which is really appreciative, this village did so, long back in early 2000s itself. The village called “Odanthurai” in India fully operates on renewables like solar & wind energy and to the sensational, sells the excess electricity generated to the Government for ₹19 Lakhs / Year on average.
Odanthurai, a Panchayat village located 40km away from Coimbatore city, TamilNadu, India has been a remarkable example for other villages and cities of the world by being fully reliable on renewables and having its own water-supply since late 1990s or early 2000s.
R Shanmugam, the then village panchayat head (between 1996 – 2006), was the man behind the boom of the village that got transitioned from an area of huts with water-scarcity, deficit electricity supply to an astounding land of 850 houses, solar-panels installed on each house, overhead tanks and pipelines for water-supply and a giant wind-mill capable of producing nearly 7 lakh units of power annually, all built by the Panchayat guidance over a course of 10 years.
What R Shanmugam did is so simple – leveraging the most from the Government and its schemes.
Born and brought up in the local itself, Shanmugam was elected as the Panchayat President of Odanthurai in the year 1996. Being understood the plague prevailing in the village like basic infrastructure and needs, he was determined to settle the concerns.
“Of course, as a native, I knew these problems and would often complain about the government’s lack of apathy. But it was only when I came on this side of the table did I understand problems better,” he said.
The First Reform – Drinking Water Supply
Providing clean water for all the 1750 villagers back then was the first step of him. Besides constructing borewells, water filtering station and overhead tanks to fetch water to every household, he indeed arranged a water pump to suck out the water from Bhavani River, nearby.
“We used the National Rural Drinking Water Programme to fund the drinking water project. As per the scheme 10% money (₹4.80 Lakh) was pooled from the Odanthurai village community and the Central Government funded the rest which amounts to ₹4.80 Crores,” Shanmugam added.
In steps of rendering 500 street lights, new motors, filtering points and booster stations for the drinking water plant, increase the electricity bill of the village significantly from ₹2000 to ₹1.5 lakh in just two years.
This was when Shanmugam got introduced to renewables.
Renewable – Solar & Wind
Formerly in late 1990s, when price of wood was cheap at ₹0.60/kg, gasifier system was deployed for pumping water. Four years later, when electricity was cheaper than wood, the village shifted to TNEB (Tamil Nadu Electricity Board).
Shanmugam however had his research to go on of renewable sources, wherein at one of his conferences, Solar & wind energy lured his attention.
On foreseeing the efficacy of solar, Shanmugam installed 2KW solar systems in two villages of the panchayat, and this saved ₹5000 on Panchayat’s electricity bill. And leveraging Solar Powered Green House Scheme of Government, 850 houses have been built so far since 1997 with every house measuring 300sq.ft and valuing ₹2.5 lakhs. While the government provided ₹1.80 lakh to every beneficiary, the remaining was expended by the villagers itself. That puts the cost to the house-owner to just ₹70,000.
“If we can implement government schemes in an appropriate manner, we can bring development” – Shanmugam asserts.
Shanmugam didn’t stop there. A wind mill of 350 KW capacity was set up at a cost of ₹1.55 Crore at the village and it generates 6.75 lakh units of electricity annually, out of which 4.75 lakh units are used by the panchayat & the excess 2 lakh units is sold to the TNEB. That adds ₹19 lakhs / year as revenue for the Panchayat.
₹40 lakh for the windmill was paid out from the Panchayat’s savings while the remaining amount ₹1.15 crore was loaned from a nationalised bank in 2005. The village had already settled the loan and has been profiting out from the renewables for more than 4 years.
Odanthurai Village is an example for World
The attributes of the panchayat conceived the attention of not just the country, but the world, with World Bank experts, village administrations, IAS officers, Ministry of Renewable Energy, students, and researchers making their visit to the village to study Shanmugam’s strategy of self-governance, though he being only qualified upto Standard-10.
The standardization and upliftment of the village was 85% in a course of 10 years.
Schools were also built during the course, which pushed the dropouts to zero. When Shanmugam was elected as Panchayat President, the population under the council was 1,650. Today, 9,500 people are living in these villages.
“People now have access to water, energy, good roads and houses, and that is the reason why people are migrating to these villages,” said Shanmugam. Contradicting urban-migration, this village proved that ‘rural-migration’ too is possible when needs and wants are pacified.
By acknowledging and leveraging the benefits from Government, organizations and banks, this man had overthrew many governments’ incentives. Have time to visit this place “Odandhurai”, when you plan your vacation to India‘s Kerala / Tamil Nadu.
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