Pune, July 3: The conference hall in YASHDA witnessed a half day conference on ‘ green norms for wind energy development ‘ organised by CSE , New Delhi and Shakti sustainable energy research foundation.The conference had participants from various disciplines including research organisations, journalists, wild life experts, forest officials, wind energy industry representatives and activists.
Chandra Bushan , deputy director of CSE gave a brief presentation on the present scenario of wind energy development in India and emphasized on the ‘ linear fragmentation ‘ effects caused by these projects which are often neglected and sidelined due to the lack of a proper mandate of EIA (environmental impact assesment) for wind projects in India. The presentation also included the experiences of best practices from around the world in pertinent to wind energy.
The fact that 3454 hec of forest land was diverted for Wind power during 2006-2013 ,pointed towards the urgent need for developing an EIA mechanism in place with the consultation from all the stake holders. The experience in Timbaktu collective ,Andhra pradesh served as a concrete example which revealed the wide scale devastation caused by lack of planning and accountability in project approvals and misuse by large wind energy developers(it was an Enercon project of 53 Mw).
The wild life experts and activists pointed out the need to develop plans to mitigate the adverse affects by considering the issues of noise pollution , shadow flicker and bird deaths in greater details by conducting studies in this regard. Organisations like Bombay Natural History Society emphasized the need for adequate government support in order to carry out such studies.The lack of a state level coordinating agency was also highlighted as a government failure when many of the companies could circumvent the clearance systems within 10 – 15 days even without having any mitigating measures in place and using forest lands. it was also observed that many projects have failed to adhere to the MOEF guidelines and still have obtained necessary permissions even with in the no go areas like wildlife sanctuaries and national parks including Eco sensitive zones of western ghats.
Mr Chintan Shah , Suzlon industries spoke on behalf of the wind industry regarding various challenges and mitigating measures undertaken by the industry.The need for proper government mechanisms in place was suggested by the panel regarding any further development in this sector. The use of satellite imagery and other advanced ICT’s were also discussed in order to minimize the adverse impacts of wind turbines.
The picturesque landscape of pathanpara situated in the hilly terrains of kannur district in Kerala tells us the success story of appropriate technology movement in India. 15 years ago the community came up with their own micro hydel project for supplying electricity for almost 36 households without any government support. could you recollect the NASA scientist Mohan Bhargava ???(Swades , the film which has influenced many of the youngsters of our time to think about rural development) and imagine pathanpara had two – local engineers who worked with the local community to bring about this revolutionary model challenging all the existing myths about technology.
- Shibu and Raju at the project site
The janakeeya urja samithi (village electricity committee) managed by the community members is an interesting example of how empowerment works in in the actual sense. A 5 kw capacity micro hydel generator fighting against the energy hungry nation’s nuclear demons. The pathanpara project was actually in response to the nuclear plant proposed for kannur in the early nineties.”A complete celebration for the entire village. i still remember the day the entire street was decorated with colored lights and the entire village was in a mood of festivity” says shibu, the first secretary of janakeeya urja samithi. The project which provided electricity for almost 36 houses with its own committee which efficiently managed the generation , distribution of the electricity has actually challenged the state electricity board which could not provide them power for 15 years.
In the words of Appachan while recalling the incident “Cooperatives are always a success if the whole community can come together for the common cause of development and is the most efficient way of enabling rural development”.Pathanpara is no exception as the community under the aegis of the parish priest Fr Asariparambil had already taken up the operation of a cooperative bus which served this lush green village in the hilly terrains of western ghats.
The situation has changed now in pathanpara. it is not a remote hilly terrain anymore. In august 2012 the village was electrified under the Rajiv Gandhi grameen vydutikaran yojana which resulted in the stoppage of the pathanpara project. There is a possibility that the project may be upgraded and can reach the capacity to sell electricity back to the grid which would leave them options to raise a sort of ‘village development fund’ which can be used for other development activities. The days i spent with the villagers gave me a sense of hope that people still want to continue it as the project has become a symbol of the pathanpara village. The tea time discussions( i don’t know what exactly a focus group discussion is) and the interviews over lunch (had to hide questionnaires in front of the mouth watering fish curry) revealed some sense of pride and empowerment experienced by the villagers as owners of a project. nobody even speaks about pathanpara without the suffix janakeeya current. I could feel it in the air and even the wind there seems to whisper ‘yes we did it,buddy”