Green Prakriya: In Kottapalayam Sun Shines at Night!

Posted on 24. Jan, 2012 in: Uncategorized

Kottapalayam is an example of what could be duplicated in many Indian villages for many projects involving public good. A collaboration of an NGO, a private company and local and state governments made this happen.

Murugamma had gone to Coimbatore and returned to Kottapalayam at night by the last bus. She walked home briskly. Upon reaching home she immediately asked her 10 year old daughter to fetch water from the community tap. She realised that just three years ago this would not have been possible in Kottapalayam.

Kottapalayam is a neat and tidy village. The 50 houses including Murugamma’s are laid out in a grid of clean unpaved roads. They are modest, functional homes with simple clean architectural lines – red tiled roofs and bright white walls. Kottapalayam is one of the 10 hamlets of Vavipalayam Panchayat and is reachable in an hour and half by bus from Coimbatore or Kovai as it is called locally, Tamil Nadu’s second largest city.

Kottapalayam is a neat and tidy village. The 50 houses including Murugamma’s are laid out in a grid of clean unpaved roads. They are modest, functional homes with simple clean architectural lines – red tiled roofs and bright white walls. Kottapalayam is one of the 10 hamlets of Vavipalayam Panchayat and is reachable in an hour and half by bus from Coimbatore or Kovai as it is called locally, Tamil Nadu’s second largest city.

Kottapalayam in 2004, was a sunbathed village during the day and totally dark at night. Like most villages in Tamil Nadu, it too was “electrified”, but being connected to the power grid and getting predictable power supply are two different things. Back then Murugamma would never have taken the last bus and no child in the village would have gone to the community tap for water in the dark.

Today, 10 photovoltaic (solar) powered street lights serve the village. They are owned by the Vavipalayam panchayat, which pays no electric bill for these. The hardworking men and women, mostly landless or subsistence farmers are proud of their street lights.

Technically the installation of street lights is quite simple; but what makes this venture unique and interesting is the process of how it came about. The initiative for this came from Sundaramoorthy and Senthil Arumugan of Sindhanai Sirpigal a local NGO. They introduced infraSys, a Bangalore based company, which invests in small enterprises and in infrastructure development in rural India, to Jeyabalakrishnan, the enthusiastic and energetic Project Officer of Coimbatore District Rural Development Agency (DRDA).
The deal arrived at was simple. The Government of Tamil Nadu would provide a grant for Rs100,000. infraSys would invest an equal amount and would recover its investment with nominal returns in three years. Vavipalaym Panchayat would then own the lights and reap the projected savings, over the next 20 years, of Rs 300,000.

Democratic process and transparency required that this arrangement be approved by villagers and the panchayat. On January 28, 2004 the citizens of Vavipalayam in the Gram Sabha (Village assembly) passed a resolution to enter into a contract with infraSys for the solar street lights. This was finalized at the DRDA offices in February and the financing was in place. Under the DRDA’s guidance the lights were installed in May 2004.

In February of 2005, the solar lights were on the streets, giving light during nights. The residents are very proud of their street lights. They can now see the path of travel at night; they can see the movements of snakes, if any; the children stretch their play time outdoors and best of all these lights are predictably on, with power cuts having no effect on them! Though the locations of the lights were arrived at democratically, there are some locations that are still being debated by the residents.

But two lights are spared of all criticism.The first is located almost directly above the community tap. The other light has a different significance. Every Tuesday evening two Men’s Self Help Groups meet and transact their group’s affairs and hold their meeting under this particular light. It is worth noting that these groups were formed after the installation of the street light.

There are more stories to share, after the sun sets under the solar street lights, in village India.

Source: Businessworld

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