Bilgaon microhydel project washed away

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, THE HINDU, AUGUST 11, 2006
The project was acknowledged as a model of decentralised development
# Project inspired Bollywood film Swades
# NBA got help to design the project
# Water level at the Sardar Sarovar site has crossed 127 metres

MUMBAI: The Bilgaon microhydel project in Nandurbar district, which inspired the Bollywood film “Swades,” has been washed away due to the backwater effect of the Sardar Sarovar dam, according to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Incessant rains in the Narmada Valley and rising water levels have flooded many villages in Maharashtra along the Narmada.
Since August 7, the NBA along with its leader Medha Patkar and about 100-odd activists have been staging a dharna in Chimalkhedi village to protest against the poor rehabilitation of the Government. The micro-hydel power project was acknowledged as a model of decentralised development, initiated by the people, using natural resources.
Bilgaon an adivasi village in the Narmada valley has about 180 families. This village did not have electricity even 55 years after Independence. The NBA decided to locate a micro hydel project here in 2002 since the place had a nine-metre high waterfall on a tributary of the Narmada, Udai. A committee was formed in the village, with representation from every household and this was supported by the local gram panchayat at Chikali, which passed a resolution supporting the project.
The NBA got help to design the project and people did 2,000 human-days of Shramdaan to construct a check dam, canal, penstock and the powerhouse. The project was designed by engineers from the People’s School of Energy and implemented by the Bombay Sarvodaya Friendship Centre with support from the Association for India’s Development, a voluntary organisation. The penstock was made by volunteers from Dhule and the 15 KW turbine by a professor from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
The energy produced used to provide electricity for every house in the village as well as a boarding school or ashramshala (with 300 students). The work started in May 2002 and the project was completed in January 2003.

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