Watermills to churn out power
Watermills are the cheapest and most eco-friendly means of generating small hydro-power, hence the need for upgrading technology in countries where these are needed
S.M.A. Kazmi
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, November 23
The humble Indian watermills, also known as 'gharats' in the Himalayas and foothills, are all set to get international recognition.

Efforts of Dr Anil Joshi, founder of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO), a Dehradun-based voluntary group, has borne fruit as the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDPO), headquartered in Vienna, would be holding an international conference of water millers from across the world in February in New Delhi.

Although watermills, the oldest and the simplest technology since time immemorial, are part and parcel of human civilisation, it would be for the first time that water millers from across the globe would come together to form a body at the proposed international conference.

HESCO has tied up with UNIDO, office of the principal scientific adviser (PSA) to the Prime Minister and the union minister of industries to hold the conference.

"Water millers from 26 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia where watermills are still in vogue are expected to participate in the conference," Dr Joshi said.

Participants are expected to visit Dehradun and parts of Uttarakhand for a first-hand knowledge about the watermills.

Dr Joshi said it was during his visit to China in 2007 for a conference organised by International Small Hydro-Power that participants felt the need to give recognition to watermills for its' multipurpose use.

" It would be the first international recognition of a simple machine that is the mother of all technologies," said Dr Joshi.

UNIDO has agreed to set up an international watermill hub in Uttarakhand, which will go a long way in technology enhancement of the small water device.

"Dr Philip Matthew, country director, UNIDO, and Dr Ramesh Jalan, UNIDO coordinator for conference, are to make the conference a success," Dr Joshi added.

The international conference would assess the social, economic and ecological impact of watermills and try to create awareness on mutual benefits and advantages of watermills amongst the water millers across the globe.

"In the light of the global demand for energy and issues of climate change, watermills are the cheapest and most eco-friendly means of generating small hydro-power, hence the need for upgradation of technology in the countries where these are needed," he said.

An international body of water millers would be set up at the conference for transfer of knowledge and technology among water millers so that expertise and experiences can be shared.

Similarly, the conference plans to introduce technologies and explore technological innovations for increased efficiency and establish linkages among water millers, technologists and academic institutions.

" China has done wonderful work in using watermills for hydro-power generation. Dr Tong, director-general of International Small Hydro-Power, visited Uttarakhand in 2007 and was impressed with the work done here," Dr Joshi said.

Dr Joshi, has been working for the past two decades on upgradation of watermills in the Himalayan region from J&K in the west to Nagaland in the east.

Along with the Army, his organisation was responsible for the upgradation of watermills to generate electricity to light up border villages in trouble-torn Jammu & Kashmir and the North East.

More than 800 watermills in Poonch, Rajouri, Baramula, Kupwara and Kargil were upgraded. At several places it was for the first time that homes were illuminated.

Traditionally, the watermill was used to grind wheat but with simple technological changes, the device can also generate 2-5 kw of electricity.

There are thousands of watermills in the entire Himalayan region. According to an estimate prepared by HESCO, watermills can generate 2,500 mw of decentralised and clean power for supply to farflung areas.

The working of a watermill is similar to a hydroelectric power plant. Water from a stream is tapped and routed through a chute.

There is a wheel at the centre. Flat blades or turbines are fixed at the wheel. The water falls from a certain height and forces the wheel to rotate, generating energy.

"We hope that this international conference would go a long way in creating a mechanism for upgradation of watermills and make these machines the hub of energy production that can go a long way in decentralised development in remote Himalayan hamlets where lack of power has remained a stumbling block for starting any enterprise,” explained Dr Joshi.



No jumbo joy at Rajaji
The tourist inflow at Rajaji Park has begun with its opening on November 15, but they will miss jumbo rides
Jotirmay Thapliyal
Tribune News Service

Dehradun, November 23
Ever since the death of Arundhati, the famous female camp elephant at Rajaji Park last year, there have been no elephant rides for tourists with the park authorities searching hard for a substitute.

The tourist inflow at Rajaji Park has begun with its opening on November 15. But these tourists will miss jumbo rides, a major attraction among foreign tourists for the past many years.

The park has five elephants, including three females, but none among them is fit to be used for a ride.

As most of these elephants have come through seizures, they are a property of court and, thus, cannot be used for rides.

Further, these seized elephants are not used to such rides and can go beserk on spotting a smaller animal in close proximity.

The Rajaji Park has a closed down its routine two-hour elephant safari.

“Tenders have been sought from private parties in elephant predominant states like Karnataka and Kerala which will help start elephant rides in the park”, park director Rajaji SS Raisaily said.

With the sale and purchase of elephants banned in the country, as per the provisions of the Wild Life Conservation Act, it is hard to find camp elephants.

The Uttarakhand wildlife authorities some time back, after much effort, did manage to find a few camp elephants in Siliguri, and had decided on three elephants, but the proposal fell through.

Rajaji Park has a 34 km nature safari trail passing through undulating forest tracks, hilly terrain, lush green valleys and riverbeds.

Elephant safaris are of much delight to the visitor.

Significantly, camp elephants not only boost eco-tourism efforts, but also play a pivotal role in security patrols.

As per an estimate, the state needs 10 elephants for safaris in the famous Corbett National Park, the Rajaji Park and certain forest divisions.



Tech messiah for rural folk
Neena Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dehradun November 23
Empowering rural folk through technological innovation comes easy to Dr Hamida Abdi, a scientist with the ministry of science and technology.

It is her common sense and ears-to-the-ground approach that has helped
provide countless men and women with livelihood opportunities when these
seemed non-existent.

“Our department has come up with several technology packages in areas of agriculture, health, veterinary, aquaculture and related fields that target rural folk.

“These packages are developed after interaction with farmers. All our interventions are women- friendly. Of special mention is food processing, a value addition to agriculture products that get a new lease of life when converted into pulp and then made into jellies, jams and squashes,” informs Dr Abdi.

“In Uttarakhand a lot of citrus fruit gets destroyed due to lack of storage facility. With HESCO( Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation) we began utilising the fruits. Women groups were involved.

“They did know much about preservatives or scientific methods of enhancing the shelf life of products. That done, it was easy. Today, these groups are active in the hills, especially in Chamoli (Uttarakhand),” says Dr Abdi.

At the insistence of Dr Anil Joshi she began working on the prasad offered in most temples across the country.

“A bit of ingenuity by Dr Joshi and a lot of hard work has changed the composition of prasad that consisted of perishable articles like fruit.

“We have been able to introduce local grains grown here and ladoos with dry fruit that people relish. These can be sampled at several temples in Uttarakhand,” informed Dr Abdi.

All these initiatives have empowered the local people; it is the local people who are involved in making prasad.

The entire activity is carried out with assistance of temple committees of Badrinath and Gangotri temples.

That there are several religions in the country has given a fillip to the initiative.

“After success with the prasad, we moved on to Piran Kaliyar Sharif in Roorkee where there is a tradition of offering sweet chapatis.

“Today, 50 women are involved in making these chapatis in a more hygienic manner and have also set up a distribution system,” informs Abdi .

In Thissur in Kerala, offering of flowers at several churches has been streamlined.

“With agriculture and technological inputs from us, the farmers there began
growing tube roses and hybrid flowers. The economic condition of many farmers
has improved,” says Abdi.



Bengal Sappers’ saga of valour
Vikas Vasudeva
Tribune News Service

Roorkee, November 23
Fighting against Rommel in the western desert, moving the legendary fourteenth Army across the water barriers of Burma, carving a path to victory in the 1971 war, bringing succour to thousands of calamity-stricken countrymen, maintaining the fighting edge across the snowy heights of Siachen and chasing the enemy out of Kargil, the Bengal Sappers have been through it all.

Roorkee cantonment is the headquarters of the Army's Bengal Engineering Group and Centre (Bengal Sappers), which has the unique distinction of being the only group affiliated with both the Navy and the Air Force.

The official name of the Bengal Sappers has undergone many changes like 1st Prince of Wales Own Sappers and Miners and the Bengal Sappers and Miners.

But through ages, its name of "Roorkee Safar Maina" has stuck to it, symbolising its symbiosis with Roorkee Safar Main, a colloquial term for "Sappers and Miners".

The Bengal Engineers Group and Centre occupies a major portion of Roorkee Cantonment and boasts of historical buildings like the Group Headquarters building built in 1856, the famous war memorial completed in 1927, the group museum, the officers’ mess - the oldest mess (1856) in use in India, and Safar Maina House dating back to 1903, the home of the Commandant, Bengal Sappers.

The Bengal Sappers is one of the oldest army units of the country and has a legend of valour, service and sacrifice. Capt Tom Wood raised Bengal Pioneers in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) in 1803. After this, Bengal Sappers was founded in 1819.

Both organisations were merged into one known as BEG & C and its headquarters was established at Ludhiana (Punjab), which in 1853 was shifted to Roorkee, now known as BEG & C Roorkee, Bengal Sappers Roorkee or Roorkee Cantonment.

Ever since it's raising, the Bengal Sappers have participated in all military operations, earning 80 battle honours, 11 theatre honours, 11 Victoria Cross, 116 Orders of Merit, 17 Shaurya Chakra, 93 Sena Medal and 11 Arjun Award, the highest won by any single organisation in the country.

The achievements of the Bengal Sappers during times of peace are no less renowned. It won laurels for constructing the upper Ganga Canal, the lifeline of agriculture in Haridwar and western and central UP, besides building roads and bridges at high altitudes and undertaking management of natural calamities and disasters in different parts of the country.

Important projects undertaken by the group include construction of Thomason Engineering College, now IIT-Roorkee), the trunk road between Kolkata and Nagpur and GT Road.



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