Sunday, November 3, 2013

Diwali at Hindustan University

It was nice of the Hindustan University director to have invited his neighbours,  Mantri Synergy apartments residents  to celebrate Diwali with students on the campus. Our apartments complex and the varsity campus share the same compound wall. Developing neighborly goodwill would of mutual advantage.
Mantri resident Mr Gopalan R , who got the call from the Hindustan University director, started working the phone to call up his friends and neighbours to mobilize, within hours , 20 odd residents to represent Mantri Synergy at the neighbourhood  campus. Getting so many, on a festival day,  at such short notice was a tough call, considering that many of us had guests at home, visiting to exchange greetings. Besides, Diwali evening is quality time that each of us would want to spend with family, at home.
On the Hindustan University campus we were received by Dean, Admin,, Brig. Dr. Ravi Verman (Retd.) , who led us to the campus soccer grounds, where students (hostelers) were bursting a riot of fire crackers. Bringing together neighbourhood residents and campus hostelers for Diwali celebrations was thoughtful of the university director Dr.Ashok Verghese  (whose idea it was). It gave the hostel students, who couldn’t go home to  their families, an opportunity to celebrate a festive occasion in a family environment.
The next time, on another festival day, it would be our turn to invite our neighbours over for a get-together. Socializing between neighbours promote healthy environment. As OMR Green member, I see this as an opening for us to involve our student neighbours in our OMR Green activities. Hopefully, Mr Gopalan would take this idea forward with his contacts at the Hindustan University faculty.

Reproduced  from My Take

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

OMR Greens trip to Muthukkadu

We are planning a visit to Muthukkadu Lake this Sunday, Oct.13.The idea arose from a suggestion by Hindustan University director, Mr Ashok Verghese. In response to OMR Greens mail on the need for conservation and develoment of Padur Lake, Mr Verghese came up with an additional agenda - to mobilise public support for infrastructure development at Muthukkadu Lake for yachting and sailing activities.
As a tentative first step towards this objective we propose to take a trip to explore the lay of the land around Muthukadu.
Programme for Muthukkadu trip
7.30 a m start from Mantri Synergy main gate
Sunday, Oct.13, 2013.

Monday, September 23, 2013

'No bargain' auto-rickshaw

Autorickshaw drivers have a reputation for fleecing customers. However, in recent days fare-paying passengers in Chennai  notice a refreshing change in auto-drivers. I have heard people saying they have sighted autos fitted with fare-meter ; and some, adding they have even traveled, paying the metered fare.

Such refreshing change may be partly due to a  raise in fare by the authorities. More than this, we have had a spurt in community groups - such as Namma Auto, Auto Raja and  Book My Call Auto - that are engaged in mobilizing auto-drivers, to adopt decent behaviour and fair practices. Anubhav  Agarwal, a computer professional, teaming up with sociologist Aishwarya Raman, to create the special interest group - Auto Raja - says over 200 auto drivers have signed up with their group.

They represent just a drop in the bucket, taking into account the thousands of Chennai autorickshaws, over 70 percent of which are not owner-driven.  Anubhav concedes that their work and mission can't be expected appeal to a majority of drivers, who hire vehicles, paying  hefty retainer to benami  vehicle owners.

The challenge faced by special interest groups such as AutoRaja  is in mobilizing a critical mass of Chennai auto drivers for adopting fair practices. As for fare-paying passengers, the challenge is in sighting a  metered autorickshaw. The Times of India reported seeing an auto-driver displaying the official rate card on his  wind shield. Another vehicle, the newspaper said,   had a 'No Bargain' sticker, citing officially prescribed rates.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Airport Metro-rail work not moving

Construction work on the Chennai OTA-Airport section of the metro-rail has been brought to a stand still, with the sacking of the contractors. They, presumably,deserved the sack much earlier, for their dismal pace of progress in work. With barely 8 months left for the April 2014 target the contractors - Lanco Infratech Ltd. - had 70 percent job unfinished when the Chennai Metro-Rail authorities chose to terminate the contract.

And, they say, it would take 3 to 4 months for them to finalize a fresh contractor. Upshot is an indefinite delay in project completion, well beyond the the April 2014 target. That the cost of the delay (who computes it, and how ?) would be borne by Lanco Infratech is no consolation for the travelling public. You and I have now no idea when the job on the 5-km metro-rail would get done, eventually.

We are accustomed to a state of affairs where completion of a contracted public project on time is more an exception than the rule. A more pertinent question is: why did Chennai Metro-Rail take so long to take action ? They wake up only months before the April 2014 target date, when the late-Latif of a contractors  have so much as 70 percent work yet to be done, on the metro-rail stretch between OTA and Airport.

What has the monitoring agency been doing till now ? Shouldn't Chennai Metro-rail officials responsible for shoddy monitoring be identified and penalized ? Maybe,  you can't touch their basic pay, but shouldn't their pay-hike and promotion be held up for the duration of the work delay ?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dial-a-rickshaw service for OMR ?

Prompted by  a media write-up on Green Rickshaw, Mr Gopalan R and I did some loud thinking at OMR Greens meeting on Sat. at Mantri's front-lawns. Idea is  to promote dial-a-rickshaw service to cover short distances, between and within residential communities on OMR.

Navdeep Asija, founder of  Ecocabs, says a steel-frame, lighter weight three-wheeler that they have designed costs between Rs.13,500 and Rs.15,000 in Punjab. OMR Greens members could identify three unemployed local youths - in Padur-Kelambakkam area - willing  become self-employed owner-rickshaw operators, with help from OMR Greens. If an aspirant rickshaw-owner raises Rs.5,000 for a green rickshaw, OMR Greens could consider loaning him the other Rs.10,000, interest-free, and repayable on easy terms.

This is the Green Wheels programme that OMR Greens could initiate. To start with, we aspire to help  three unemployed local youth in getting rickshaws..The rickshaws, funded with OMR Greens loan, would be painted green, and carry Green Wheels logo. The rickshaw-owners would get the benefit of interest-free loan for promoting the green cause through their vehicle.

Loan requirement of Rs.30,000, for three rickshaws can be raised through contribution by OMR Greens members, repayable when rickshaw loans are repaid. If OMR Greeners are willing, their amounts can be ploughed back for helping some more unemployed youths.

Hopefully, the three green wheel, light-weight rickshaws we introduce in Padur-Kelambakkam area, would prompt others to introduce dial-a-rickshaw service elsewhere on OMR .

As of now, auto-rickshaws charge Rs.50 for a trip from Padur to kelambakkam; Rs.40 from Mantri gate to Chettinad Hospital; Rs.30 from Padur Hindustan University stand to X S Real apartments adjacent to Mantri synergy. If we  Green wheel rickshaws charge two-thirds of the auto-fare, it will still be to the advantage of both rickshaw-owner and his customers.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rain clouds over OMR

Such  was the scene, captured from my 9th floor apartment at Padur, on Friday (Aug.16) afternoon. It started raining within a few minutes after this shot was taken.
This was when I switched to the video mode to capture the sharp showers.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Phone-in rickshaw for suburbs

Navdeep Asija, a transportation expert,  has come up with a concept for organizing cycle rickshaw-operators into a service group to provide on-call rickshaw service for people. Chandigarh is in the process of putting in place a dial-a-rickshaw service, to mobilize city rickshaw-operators under the phone-in programme.

Organisers  are in the process of  data collection of rickshawallahs with cell phone (who hasn't a phone, nowadays ?)  in Chandigarh's 170 cycle-rickshaw stands. Idea is to publish  Yellow Page that gives area-wise details of rickshaw-operators -  their name, photo, mobile number and the list of the areas where they are available. The data is crowd-sourced, and rickshaw users are encouraged to send in for inclusion in the list, details of rickshaw operators they know of in their localities.

The Chandigarh Ecocab service has been put together by a 14-member team led by  Navdeep Asija. Navdeep who pioneered a movement to turn congested segments of our cities into car-free zone, started with his native Fazilka,  where  ther Clock Tower market area was made a pedestrian paradise. Later. the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in its directive on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), asked the authorities to identify and establish vehicle free areas in each town and city of Punjab.

The Ecocab has designed an all-steel rickshaw that weighs some 20 odd kg. less than the conventional one (90-95 kg), making Ecocab rickshaw  easier to operate. Besides Fazilka and Chandigarh  Ecocab phone-in service are being developed in Amritsar and Patiala, where a non-profit group has launched the Green cabs. They provide operators with a relatively lighter-in-weight rickshaw, and a membership card that ensures rickshaw-operators free medical check up, concessional treatment, concessional lab investigations. Rickshawallahs  would be entitled to discounted medicine at designated medical shops. The Patiala Green Cabs seeks to provide members with Insurance, uniforms and also help them increase their earnings through new advertisement concepts.

I thought of doing this post about  Punjap Ecocab service in this  blog that  relates  to OMR area in Chennai, in the hope that some enterprising soul here  would take the  initiative to launch Ecocab service for short-distance transport network in OMR area. Rickshaw service would be ideal for covering places within a distance of one to five km. - i.e.  Siruseri bus stop on OMR to the IT offices complex; from Padur (where I live ) to Kelambakkam. Some emerging residential complexes on OMR are so big and extensive that a rickshaw operator would find it viable  to work within the complex. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Padur Lake degenerates

Padur Lake in March this year

The lake in our Padur neighbourhood of OMR is drying up. Nay, it is being killed willfully; systematically abused, by people for bathing, cleaning their vehicles, including heavy duty trucks, mining sand from lake bed, and turning  lakeside a dumping yard for household, and building construction debris.

In the past five months, since March last when OMR Greens visited the lake last, its water level has receded to floor level in several places. Yesterday (Aug.4) Six of us  - Gopalan R, Srinivasan, Sridhar P S, Rajaram, Arun Pillai and I - made a re-visit, only to be deeply disappointed.

The man-made ravage we witnessed on virtually a dry lake bed was way beyond our worst fears. Sand mining mafia has hacked up the lake bed into dug-outs. Property builders have dumped construction debris all along the lakeside. A dense outgrowth of thorny karuvelam is used as open toilet. Karuvelam  is considered among the worst of the species harming environment. Clearing the surroundings of the lake of the karuvelam outgrowth appears an impossible task. Extensive litter of construction debris, apparently not just from Padur neighbourhood, but brought from far out on OMR, is a fresh lakeside development that was  not evident, not so extensively at any rate, five months back during OMR Greens last visit.

Irony is that OMR Greens were counting on participation of property developers on OMR in our plan for Padur Lake conservation. Here we see developers dumping their debris on the lakeside.Sand mining the lake bed appears to have developed into a thriving business, which cannot go on without endorsement by unscrupulous elements in local panchayat.The sand-miners find it convenient to wash their trucks in the receding lake water.

That Padur Lake serves as the prime drinking water source for an ever increasing population of Padur and its OMR neighbourhood make lake conservation imperative. The drinking water scheme implemented with ADB loan of Rs.126 lakhs not so long ago would soon go waste if  Padur and other OMR residents do not raise their voice to put an end to the reckless abuse of Padur Lake.  

Meanwhile, we heard from Mr Sureshkumar of V-R Volunteers about their plan. Mr Kumar, a software professional, says his group are in touch with consultant Dr Umashankar who has counselled the authorities in respect of conservation of water bodies, notably Periyakulam lake in Coimbatore. A group from V-R Volunteers  led by Mr Kumar is expected to visit Padur Lake this weekend.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Verghese Proposal for Muthukadu Lake

Muthukadu Lake, ECR
Our post on OMR Greens plan for Padur lake prompts director Ashok Verghese of Hindustan University to suggest 'a more ambitious plan,  to turn Lake Muthukadu into a facility of national importance, attracting even international attention'. He refers to Kerala's tourism-driven sea-plane concept for the state's lakes and backwaters.

Says Mr Verghese: "How about we propose 'Lake Muthukadu - Destination for Adventure & Beauty'. That the lake is virtually at the backyard of Hindustan University campus should facilitate its Dept. of Environment to take up the needed studies and survey to turn the Verghese Proposal into a full-fledged project plan for Lake Muthukadu.

Mr Verghese refers to the conspicuous absence of a marina on the Chennai water front. As he put it, " all coastal cities have beautiful Marinas where 1000's of boats are anchored. From million-dollar yachts to the common sail boats are parked safely. This will promote citizens to enjoy & experience first hand the wonders of the oceans".

Whether Lake Muthukadu would lend itself for development into a marina of the kind Mr Verghese has in mind  is quite another matter , Snag with Muthukadu is that an ECR road bridge runs right across  Lake, splitting the sprawling water-body into two parts.

As director , Mr Verghese has the resources to back up his proposal with a project study, which can be taken up by the Hindustan university Dept.of Environment sciences.  OMR Greens, with a project report and support  from Hindustan University, would be on a strong wicket to take the proposal forward with the govt. and other stake-holders - OMR residential communities, I T companies with CSR funds, property developers and local panchayats.

Earlier this year, Tamil Nadu Public Works Department minister K.V. Ramalingam said in the State Assembly that the waterbodies in the fringes of the city would be developed as recreational spaces. The government's interest in promoting the ECR belt, coupled with the minister's statement in the state legislature on development of lakes, ought to help us push our case for Padur and Muthukadu lakes with the stakeholders.

OMR Greens plan for Padur Lake

Padur Lake, OMR, 
The idea for a plan to develop the lake in the Padur  neighbourhood on OMR,Chennai, came up during a visit of OMR Greens, comprising mainly  Mantri Synergy residents. Most of us were there for the first time; and there are folks in our OMR neighbourhood who are not even aware of the existence of a natural water body with potential to be developed into a recreational area.

Our visit was an eye-opener, in the sense that we found the lake was being subject to reckless abuse by residents in the vicinity of the lake. Besides washing clothes and bathing, vehicle owners brought their three-wheelers and even trucks for a wash in the lake water. Those who stray into the lakeside for an early morning walk may find themselves intruding into the morning routine of people who come there because of lack of toilet facilities in their houses.

A key lesson we learned  during OMR Greens visit was that any lake conservation programme has to start with mobilizing opinion among residents in the neighbourhood; and building a row of public toilets on the lakeside. The provision of public toilets would enable us to gain local support to put up a fence. blocking public access to the water front.

 V R Volunteers, a group of service-minded IT professionals at Kelambakkam, has offered to carry out a lakeside cleaning programme. They can also be involved in creating public awareness among Padur residents. Considering that  a drinking water scheme with lakeside pumping station was implemented with Asian Development Bank loan in 2008, makes lake protection imperative, if this water body has to remain a source of drinking water. Lakeside fencing and provision of public toilets would be a necessary first phase of Padur Lake  development.

The measure of our success in mobilising support from panchayat, neighbourhood high-rise residents, Hindustan University, and IT companies with funds for such community projects for the initial phase would determine the course of the second phase for development of the lakeside into a recreational zone, with walkway,  jogging track, open-air theatre and children's play area. Turning Padur lake into a recreational zone would, in the medium-term, help raise property value in the Padur neighbourhood.          

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sunday Sandhai (Market) at Navalur

Navalur, plays an important role in housing IT companies and is pretty engaged with IT employees from Monday to Friday/Saturday. This hi-tech face of it, turns different on Sundays, when a impromptu market of a different kind takes over the pavements of the IT companies of Navalur. This weekly market or Sandhai (a tamil word for market) wouldn't really come as a surprise for one with some knowledge of how the Indian village system works. However, the difference that this market makes from the others is the multi-lingual and multi-cultural influence that this brings in compared to a normal weekly market. A casual window shopping stroll around the market can help witness atleast a dozen languages (eg: Tamil, English, Assamese, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Urdu etc.) and people belonging to over a dozen of ethnicities. The sheer cultural milieu that this market holds is fascinating.

Products range from hair clips to wrist bands and fancy jewelry from DVD's to cell phones and other electronic items from bags to slippers/shoes and clothes, from sugar cane juice to biscuits and fresh fish, you name it and you see it there. Though most items can right now be placed under the broad categories of fancy items, clothes, electronics etc. it wouldn't be very long before other innovative products finds place in this market.

The highlight that this market holds compared to the others is the sale of second hand clothes specifically for the construction workers. These small time shops are mostly run by non-Tamil speaking small time entrepreneurs. They specifically cater to the construction workers (working on several building projects) around Navalur, Egattur, Siruseri, Thalambur, Kazhipattur, Padur, Chemmancherry etc. Pants and Shirts are priced between Rs 50/- to Rs 100/- and makes it affordable for most construction site employees. Seems like most of these clothes are brought in from Mumbai and Kolkata by agents and have businesses done locally at Parry's corner in Chennai. However, something that is subtly noticeable is that these second hand clothes shops specifically and exclusively cater only to Men.

Seems like some construction workers around this area also become part time entrepreneurs during week ends catering to the seemingly ever increasing construction worker crowd in this area.  One also finds that the other small time shops do have people coming from far away places just for business on Sundays.

The market normally operates at Navalur, on OMR from 10 AM to 7 PM on Sundays. Go for it if you wish to see the complex cultural and social transition that this area is undergoing or if you simply want to go by the market on Sundays.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tree-growers 'Nizhal' reach out to OMR high-rises

Mantri Synergy, a 750 unit apartment complex at Padur, OMR, takes pride in their common area landscaping. In fact, our landscaped space prompted film maker  Murgadoss to seek permission to film in our complex some sequences for the upcoming Tamil movie - Raja Rani.

Visually appealing, with green lawns and ornamental plants, Mantri's landscaping cost a packet to develop, and maintain through the gardening and regular watering of lawns. Fancy landscaping is a notable selling point for developers of high-rise residential communities. But do ornamental gardening with exotic plants add value to greening of the area, like planting traditional trees do?

Tree-planting groups such as Nizhal promote native species - Neem, honge, Kadubadami (tropical almond) are favoured species.Trees with berries — such as the jamun — attract a lot of birds. Nizhal, which has been fairly active in Adyar, Anna Nagar, Alwarpet and other localities in city centre, wants to reach out to emerging high-rise residential areas on OMR.

Programme co-ordinator Usha Sreedhar is addressing a mail to residents associations, seeking their co-operation. Nizhal, besides planting, is engaged in, what they call, a Free-the- tree drive. They organize a tree walk to monitor avenue trees in residential localities. Trees damaged with advertisement notices nailed to their trunks are removed by volunteers. Those seeking to carry out free-the-tree campaign in their area can contact for guidance Nizhal's Usha (9791029568), Babu (9884114721) or Shoba (9840904621).
 Nizhal tree walk at Kotturpuram 

Besides residents, shopkeepers, auto-drivers are encouraged to volunteer for tree walks. Participants spread the word among friends by uploading photos on tree walks in Facebook.Tree-planting is easily done, but Nizhal's challenge is in motivating residents for sustained care of saplings planted in public space, for at least two years after planting.

A  public-spirited group that created community blog - Friends of Roadside Trees - in Mysore was okay, but not enough to mobilize a critical mass of  tree-caring residents in various localities. Tree-planting activists such as Gurukar, who have planted over 1,000 trees in public spaces, are a rare spiecies. A retired govt. official, Gurukar moves about in his bicycle every morning, carrying with him planting kit and a sapling. He spends a part of his monthly pension on buying saplings to be planted on roadsie and other available space.

And,  in Chennai, we have at Mandaveli a tree-planting duo - Mr V Subramaniam, a retired RBI official, and Dr R Madhavan - who went around Chennai on a tricycle loaded with saplings, looking for vacant space to plant them. The tree-planting who were dubbed crackpots by some managed to plant 400 saplings at Mandaveli, within a year of their star, some 20 years back..They no longer plant, but Dr Madhavan hands out sapling to patients who visit his clinic.

Nizhal could, and they probably do, highlight the work of such tree-planting activists, to give a human touch to their campaign in schools, and residential areas. Nizhal lists their activites as:
1) Taking up planting initiatives, with support from businesses, local organizations and communities.
2) Providing saplings
3) Devising eco-projects,educational programmes
4) Tree walks
5) Publishing tree guides and and tree survey reports
6) Advising a tree protection code

Nizhal website
Nizhal on Facebook
'Raja Rani' teaser trailer that has gone viral

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Buying organic, what and where

Those who favour organic would find much info. about Chennai outlets  in The Hindu MetroPlus.
But first, I must tell you about our neighbourhood organic outlet, at Kazhipattur that caters to residents on Navalur-Padur stretch of OMR.
It is an initiative by  Mr Elango S, at Akshaya Adena (B203), Khzhipattur.
Speciality : Rice (Ponnin, Kaikuthal, Red rice and Kavuni), Cooking Oil (Groundnut, Gingilly oil) Amla Juice, Spirulina Products, Filter Coffee,Millet Vermicelli.
Free Home Delivery - between 4 PM to 11 PM, with bill.
Organic Certification
How to order:
Online through Organic Store, OMR website
E-mail - with your home address and items list.
SMS 97 9099 7077 with your home Address and list of Products.
As Ilango's is our neighbourhood store, and it started functioning recently, your comments would help the store owner to improve service.

Vaer, Online
Online shoppers through website - Vaer - can  have their organics home delivered - fruits, veggies, home and personal care items, and grocery - all organic.
Our greens are Rs. 20 a bunch. Which is the same as the regular market price. And delivery is free. Says shop founder Kayalvizhi Raja.
We offer a mixed box of mangoes. Even if people order just one variety, we try and send a couple of different types along with their order, complimentary.”
Vaer focusses on local foods in their ‘Country Special’ section, such as coconut palm sugar, karuppu kavuni rice and ragi pappads.
“Yes. Organic food doesn’t stay fresh for long".
Call 094446-67070; they are on Facebook

 Organic Green Store
At Anna Nagar, Periyar Nagar; known for its cold-pressed oils: coconut, sesame and groundnut
Run by He
malatha, they have vegetables delivered on Saturdays, by 20 plus farmers across the state.
No. 2, B-Block, 2nd Avenue, Chinthamani, Annanagar, Chennai-6001020; Phone: 96262-78090

Adyar ReStore
A not-for-profit,run by volunteers.
Specialises in traditional grains. On offer is a range of millets. Their ‘multigrain kanji mix’ made with red rice, millets, thinai, samai, samba wheat, etc. is one of their signature products. Besides vegetables, they stock foods such as organic jaggery, handmade peanut butter and freshly made sambar powder
ReStore organises vegetable and fruit bazaar on Tuesday and Saturday between 12 noon and 7 p.m.
ReStore Adyar Centre, No 27/ 10, 2nd Main Road, Kasturba Nagar, Adyar, Chennai-600020.
Phone: 044-24430093

T Nagar
Says co-founder Madhusoodhanan K, they get fruits and vegetables twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) from Kodaikanal, Tirunelveli, Erode, Gummudipoondi and Coonoor.
Grapes and pomegranates come from Karnataka and Maharashtra.
No.24, North Boag Road, T.Nagar Phone: 28157654

Sunday Shandy
Luz Church Rd.
Initiative by organic farmer P B Murali, with Ranganathan - “We had the market on Sunday initially but since it interfered with my farm activities, it has now been shifted to Friday. The other days, I sell packaged organic products,”
Pineapples from Nagaland, apples from Himachal Pradesh and sweet lime from Krishnagiri… Murali sources his organic products from all over the country.
"I specialise in organic mangoes and grow mostly Alphonso, Banganapalli and Imampasand varieties on my farm." Murali also sells unprocessed milk every Wednesday.
Shandy held every Friday between 3 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.
No.177, Luz Church Road, Mylapore
Phone: 93806-91203

Monday, May 13, 2013

Solar plan hits speed breakers

Our earlier post – Some solar facts – needs to be read with this one,  to get a sense of why we have problem meeting our solar aspirations.
Vendors at the Chennai expo on renewable energy organised by the Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) quoted between Rs.1.6 lakh and Rs.1.8 lakh, for putting up a 1 KW (kilowatt) domestic rooftop solar power system.
The handing out of the Central Government subsidy has not yet been streamlined. “Several solar power vendors have closed operations over the past year because of losses suffered in not getting the Central government subsidy’’, says K.E.Ragunaathan, solar energy entrepreneurs who started Solkar’s in 1984.
At times poor battery packs are being sold because battery prices have shot up over the past year even though solar photovoltaic panel costs have come down.
Says Mr Ragunaathan “State government levies a VAT (value-added tax) component of 5 per cent on solar power components. Where is the incentive for the consumer to opt for solar inverter, if the regular electric inverter is also taxed at five per cent ? If the tax component is cut or waived, it would bring down the entry price for solar.”
Kerala had last year targeted to move 10,000 households to solar power, with each household accounting for a 1 KW rooftop power system. They reduced the VAT on solar power to one per cent.
Source: ‘The Price goes through the roof’The Hindu write-up by Karthik Subramaniam

Cross-filed from My Take by GVK

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Man in the news at Mantri Synergy

My Mantri Synergy friend and OMR Greens enthusiast Mr Santhakumar (with face-mask)  might curse me for this photo. But then I couldn't readily lay my hands on any  other photo, of the man who has made news at Mantri's. Mr Santhakumar has become a father. His wife gave birth to a baby boy last night (Friday), their first. The mother and child are doing well.
At Mantri's we have been trying to evolve a tradition, of getting parents to plant a sapling whenever we  have a new-born joining our residential community. We planted a sapling - 'shenbegum' - to celebrate the first-born,  at Mantri Synergy's Chakraborthy family, in May 2011. A mango was planted near the swin pool when the Ramkumars  had a son, the second child  to be born in our community.
We could have yet another sapling at Mantri's to celebrate child-birth,  if we can persuade Mrs Santhakumar to do the honours.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sunday clean-up : Akkarai beach

Social activist Rajeshkanna emailed these images of the Akkarai beach on ECR his volunteer friends plan to tackle this Sunday (May 12). His friend Suresh Kumar  SMS-ed that 50 plus volunteers - mostly from TCS, HCL and Wipro - have already signed up for the two-hour beach cleaning drive. Akkarai beach this Sunday evening seems to be the place to be in, if you want to make a social statement with your presence; if you wish to be seen, and interact with like-minded enthusiasts with environmental concerns.
Remember Rajeshkanna ? When OMR Greens organized a Padur Walk Rajesh, with his wife and three-year-old daughter, played a pro-active role sticking placards at Padur street-corner and spreading the message,  word-of-mouth, among passers-by who cared to give him a hearing.
Rajesh and wife have been leading the Akkarai beach clean-up drive every Sunday evening since March 23. They started with a handful of children from their apartment complex in Sholnganallur.  From the second weeks more children, with parents joined in, with trash bags and gloves, to get rid of a small, but demonstrative, stretch of the beach, of its litter of plastics. The clean-up is carried out, Sunday evening - 4.30 p m till 6.30, when the beach is filled with visitors.
With their beach clean-up drive Rajeshkanna and his band of volunteers have been able to persuade the Chennai Corporation to place trash bins at strategic points on the beach.
Sunday Plan:
May 12 beach clean-up takes place on Akkarai, Shyamala Garden Avenue Road. Nearest bus stop: Water Tank stop on ECR.
Time - 4.30 pm till 6.30 p m
Volunteers can send SMS 9884244423/9884244483 or email
Contact Suresh Kumar 9843677487

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Some solar facts

The Hindu devoted an entire page of  its Sunday edition to solar power, carrying articles that cover nearly every thing  one needs to know to go solar.
It is not as if awareness is lacking. People do see the advantages. And yet most of us remain solar skeptics. Despite govt.  incentives we don’t see a whole lot of people showing enthusiasm for  small rooftop solar plants .  State government offers a generation-based incentive of Rs. 2 a unit. plus Rs.20,000 subsidy, for plants of up to 1 kW. But the rules are still being formulated.
A one-kilowatt peak (KWp) solar photovoltaic plant, without battery, costs Rs. 1 lakh. With the capital subsidy of 30 per cent from the Centre and Rs. 20,000 from the State government , the initial investment will be Rs. 50,000.  Add a battery – costing Rs.50,000 – the cost of solar power to households would be Rs.1 lakh per kw.  Assuming that the plant generates 135 units a month, consumer saves, annually, Rs. 9,315 on power bill. A decentralised solar system should make economic sense,  at least for those who consume more than 500 units in two months.
We publish here some other info gleaned from The Hindu’s solar page.  For those wanting to read all the articles, we give the links at the end of this post.
We treat solar energy merely an alternative energy source, rather that the key to boosting power generation.”Actively promote solar energy as a viable alternative in urban India and not just as a solution to power-deprived rural or remote regions,” says Tata Solar CEO Ajay K. Goel.
SPO (solar purchase obligation) in Tamil Ndu makes it mandatory for certain classes of electricity consumers to get a part of their consumption from solar plants. SPO has been challenged in the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity by the Tamil Nadu Spinning Mills Association.
For large industries, it makes business sense to put up their own rooftop or ground-mounted plants than to buy solar power to meet their SPO. Daimler plant near Chennai has set up a 300-kilowatt (kW) rooftop plant.
Colleges/schools can do the same. B.S. Abdur Rahman University,keen on starting solar courses. is putting up a 150-kW plant. A.M. Jain College in Chennai is working on installing a 1-MW rooftop project.
Over 75 per cent of our solar projects use imported thin-film technology.Thin-films account for less than 15 per cent of the total solar installations worldwide.Thin-films have their specific application, but in India the choice was made not for technological, but financial, reasons.
Small rooftop plants on individual houses are slow in coming. Despite govt. sweetners. Besides generation-based incentive, of Rs. 2 a unit, the state govt. offers Rs. 20,000 subsidy for units with capacities up to 1 kW. But the rules for this are still being formulated.
Muthukadu lake project
IIT-Madras have developed a hybrid solar-powered desalination plant. A solar photovoltaic panel is dovetailed to a power grid or a backup diesel generator that will power up during periods of weak sunshine and at night and keep producing water through a reverse osmosis plant.
The pilot plant produces 2.4 kilolitres a day. Since the system does not use backup batteries, maintenance and operational costs are minimal. Efforts to scale up the pilot plant to provide 1 million litres per day. The project was envisioned to be implemented near Muttukkadu, a few years ago but was shelved due to lack of funds.
At Dharmapuri hospital
A pilot solar plant designed by the institute is used to heat infant warmers at a hospital in Dharmapuri and provide energy required to store vaccines in refrigerators.Stand alone systems are quite useful and stand a competitive chance, especially in remote areas, where transport of diesel to power diesel generators costs a lot,” said Jeevan Das, a research scholar who is working on the Suryajal project.
Gujarat solar model
Launched towards the end of 2010, the Rs. 9,000-crore Gujarat Solar Park, set up on government wasteland in north Gujarat, has already been producing 214 MW,making it the first State to generate such solar energy capacity at a single location.
Stretched to 5,000 acres, from the present 2,669 acres, the Charanka Park, located at a village of Patan district, will generate 500 MW. This will make it Asia’s largest solar farm. Gujarat’s total installed capacity is 605 MW, and projects are operational in 10 districts.The government is looking for more wasteland in north Gujarat’s Banaskantha district for setting up another solar park.
Gandhinagar, being envisioned as model solar city, already has solar rooftop systems ranging from 1 kilowatt (kW) to 150 kW at more than 150 locations. This covers a total of two acres of rooftop area, providing 1 per cent of the total energy consumption in the capital. Also, the new building of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board is completely powered by solar energy
The solar page articles:

Cross filed from My Take by GVK

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Akkarai clean-up continues

 Rajeshkanna and his group - V R Volunteers ( 'V' for 'we'; 'R' for 'are') have been at it for the past six Sundays  - cleaning a patch of the Akkarai (Sholinganallur beach) of plastic bags, can, bottles and containers. Next Sunday, May 12, they have bigger plans; and to make a success of it, they invite others to join them  - company staff, school and college students, NGOs.

Sunday, May 12
4:30 PM - Volunteers meet at Akkarai Beach - Shyamala Garden Avenue Road; collect their trash bags/gloves.
4:45 PM - Split into two groups, starting the Cleanup drive from both the ends of 1 km stretch of the beach.
6:15 PM - Collection of trash bags, to be dropped at the chennai corporation garbage hold at the end of the road. 

 Social network:

 Contacts: Suresh - 9843677487;  Jai Ganesh – 9791050514

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Phone-in breakfast service on OMR

Youngster Vijay Vasudevan, a Mantri Synergy resident, with friends from a local catering institute, runs breakfast service for the benefit of office-goers in a hurry, and housewives who want take it easy on odd mornings, notably weekends. They can phone Vijay for breakfast,and it will be delivered, neatly packed, at their door-steps within a reasonable time.
A catering institute graduate, I believe his name is Gyanam Master, takes care of the kitchen.. It is a co-operative enterprise. They have taken space at  Padur, , where Gyanam Master with assistance from a couple of catering students, runs the kitchen. Vijay takes orders on phone and handles customer service. A couple of students on vacation have been engaged as delivery boys.
On offer at Vijay's breakfest service are Idli, pongal and vada, with sambar and chutney. Service is open 7 a m till 10 a m on all days. Vijay's phone-in service covers Padur-Kelambakkam stretch on OMR.
 Phone 9176509312

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Padur lakeside needs 'Namma Toilets'

Our apartments complex - Mantri Synergy - viewed from the lakeside, Padur. Photo by Balakrishnan, a Mantri resident and OMR Greens member.

Neighbourhood  residents on a recent Photowalk  along Padur Lake  were struck by the scenic settings, and its potential for development into a prime recreational area,  to serve the cluster of high-rise residential communities that have come up on  Padur-Kelambakkam stretch.

Families living in  Akshaya's, ETA Rosedale,  Mantri Synergy, X S Real,  The Jains, The Gem Group and Poorvankara wouldn't have to look any farther than their backyard for Sunday picnicking. A paved walkway, joggers track,  lakeside picnic areas, and open-air performance stage would account for high value social infrastructure.

Govt. funding would be hard to come by  for  such big ticket social infra-project. We could try a partnership model involving all stakeholders in lake area development - residents,  property developers, corporates with CSR budget, panchayat,  local town-planning authorities, urban development and tourism depts. Stakeholders share the project cost. We could try crowd-funding.

Maybe  OMR Greens are into big-ticket dreams,  triggered by their  Padur Lake Photowalk. Maybe, other neighbourhood  residents and photo enthusiasts should take to  photowalk , to explore the lakeside further and  talk about it in the social media. To start with,  let us open a Padur Lake plan page on Facebook.

Any lake development plan at Padur, we reckon, must start with provision of clean bank of public toilets along the lake. Their need would be evident for anyone who takes an early morning lakeside walk. That is when you find many people moving about behind the bushes around the lake.

Padur has recently acquired Nilgiris - air-conditioned super-mart - but, apparently, there are still houses in its neighbourhood with no proper toilets. Influx of migrant workers seeking rented houses for group-living adds to the pressure, driving  many residents to the bushes in the morning. Lakeside public toilet is a crying need, and no lake improvement plan can be implemented without fulfilling the basic need of people in the vicinity.
Photo  from ChennaiOnline

Namma Toilet, of the type that has been built at Tambaram,  appears to hold a solution to the problem of public defecation around  Padur Lake.  According to Tambaram municipal commissioner, a 'Namma Toilet' unit costs nearly Rs.70,000. A prefabricated modular stall, 'Namma Toilet'  can be assembled at the site.
Sanitation specialist Somya Sethuraman, writing in The Hindu, speaks of the need for a collective effort to create a user-friendly design, which would cater to the needs of all kinds — men and women, children, the elderly, and residents with special needs.

Somya writes: "The toilets have louvres on all four sides and a sunroof to allow for optimal ventilation, natural light and a feeling of openness without compromising user privacy. The fittings and fixtures are vandal resistant, durable and user-friendly. Each toilet stall is powered by a solar panel installed on the roof. During the day, the toilets get sunlight while the solar panels charge the battery, and when it is dark, the stalls are lit with motion sensor lighting".

A bank of five toilets by Padur lakeside would cost Rs.5 lakhs. If this could raised by way of crowd-funding and corporate CSR contribution,  OMR Greens can be said to have taken a baby step towards their big-ticket social infrastructure project that would benefit emerging residential communities on Padur-Kelambakkam stretch of OMR.

Padur lakeside photowalk, video by Soman Panicker

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shoddy waste disposal @ Padur

The concrete dustbin that OMR Greens set up at their cost, at OMR, Padur, went missing some weeks back. It reappeared on pavement the otherday. Mr Gopalan of OMR Greens, with help from a neighbourhood trader, restored the bin at its rightful spot.

 What we were not quite prepared for, was the refusal of the panchayat sweepers to clear the dustbin OMR Greens placed at their own cost -  Rs.1,000 for the concrete bin plus white-wash and painting done by resident volunteers from Mantri Synergy.
The sweepers on tricycles told us plainly that they would need panchayat president's orders for clearing OMR Greens dustbin, placed across the road from Mantri synergy residential complex.

 What has our brand of  panchayat raj come down to ?  Mr Gopalan and I plan to meet the Padur panchayat president to persuade him to give necessary directive to his road-cleaning staff.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Death of a cow on OMR

Cattle death in hit-and-runs on OMR is not uncommon. The photo was taken this morning in front of our apartments complex  - Mantri Synergy. The victim of hit-and-run, presumably, pregnant, awaits disposal. Like so many other passers-by,  my wife and I stopped by, voiced our concern and sympathy  for the animal  and cursed  the cattle owner for having  let  the cow out to fend for herself after milking.
We did the same thing - stopped by, cursed and carried on - under similar circumstances two years back. When we found, in front of our complex,  a mortally wounded cow .The scene then was that of  the cow,  foaming from the mouth, and gasping for breath. The dying animal  was being watched over by some panchayat sweepers.

This photo is taken from our earlier post (May, 2011),  in which I wrote: Padur municipal sweepers squatting by the side of the dying cow ...said they were waiting for the cow owner to turn up to claim the animal. As for the dying animal, they pleaded helplessness. There was nothing they could do, they said, other than wait for the death.  

A two-minute YouTube clip that I took, of unfettered movement of cattle at Padur.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Peace Lily as room freshener

My wife and  I have passed by this flower patch at Mantri Synergy on our morning walk for so many months without  giving a thought to  knowing so much as  the name of the plant, let alone its earthly use to our daily life.
This was till I saw a photo of the plant and read  The Hindu article - Green and clean - the other day.  They call it Peace Lily, and,  grown as indoor plant, it serves as air freshener. Peace Lilies grow easily, and they proliferate so fast that many people just throw away the extra plants that grow in their pots.         
"Grow them on your balcony or garden first and then bring them into your house to clean up the air", says The Hindu citing home gardener  Priya Mascarwnhas. The plant grows well in semi-shade and can be potted in a mixture of kitchen compost and red earth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Akkarai, ECR, beach cleanup

Rajeshkanna, a friend and OMR Greens contact in Sholinganallur, sent us this mail:  "Yesterday (Sun.April 4) was the best day in the last 4 weeks....Next cleanup event on coming Sunday 21-04-2013 4:45PM-5:45PM...Volunteers can send SMS to 9884244423/9884244483 for confirming your presence or send an email to

Rajesh, with his wife and 3-year-old daughter,  had came all the way on their moterbike, from Perumbakkam,  to join OMR Greens Padur Walk some weeks back.  A software professional with an IT company on OMR,  Rajeshkanna is a proactive green enthusiast  who responds to other people's call, when he is not organizing an event of his own. He is now in the midst of a beach clean-up campaign at Akkarai (Sholinganallur) on Sundays. The six-week drive would continue every Sunday evening ( 4.15 p m till 5.15 p m) till May 12.

I would let Rajeshkanna describe their work in his own words:
Dear Friends, 2 Weeks back we went to Akkarai, ECR Beach with our Apartment kids and saw lots of plastic bags and garbage littered on the Beach...On a Sunday(Mar 23rd 2013) we decided to clean the beach with 6 kids and started the cleanup to create awareness among people visiting the beach.
In My apartment all the kids showed interest .... on Sunday, March 31, we have done the cleanup again with 11 kids and 4 Parents. We will be going to AKKARAI beach  every Sunday 4PM for next 6 weeks...We will be talking to the people on the could please join with us. Also We are approaching the Panchayat for placing dustbins and for regular garbage removal.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kitchen garden resources centre on ECR

Surabhi, some 100 km from Chennai on the East Coast Road (ECR),  is a kitchen garden resource centre, says Hema Vijay in an article in The Hindu.  It is a resource centre  that combines a mega greenhouse, and farm with organic retail,  a restaurant, and much else. It's a one-stop greens place that provides customers with gardening tips, space-saving props, seeds, saplings, manure, pesticides, and offers for sale organic vegetables and fruits. Apart from what is grown in-house Surabhi's roadside shop  retails  produce grown by  several neighbourhood  villagers. They are not farmers, but  villagers with surplus veg.& fruits grown in their backyards.

Surabhi provides villagers in its vicinity  a marketing outlet  for household produce. A villager with a mango or guava tree in his backyard brings his household surplus to Surabhi, which sells it to car-wallahs on ECR who stop by for 'chai' and a look-around.

The man who makes Surabhi tick is Mr S S Rashakrishnan. A lawyer by training, the 64-year-old has been an IRS official with the customs dept.; and  founder of  a tax consultancy firm. Mr Radhakrishnan says he has now handed over charge to his son, and shifted base from his Beasant Nagar residence,  to manage and live at Surabhi, developed on  farmland  taken on lease from a friend near Kottaikadu village on ECR,

In a phone talk Mr Radhakrishnan said he didn't see Surabhi as a commercial venture,  though, I suspect, the business model he has evolved sustains the upkeep of 12 employees who keep Surabhi up and running as a community service project with socio-economic benefits. Surabhi initiates rural houeholds  into  efficient home gardening practices. Surabhi adds marketing value to their produce that are otherwise not easily marketable.

As for urban areas Mr Radhakrishnan believes kitchen gardening can meet much of the needs of city-dwellers, if only they put to use all available open concrete space in, around, and on top of their houses for growing greens. When I mentioned that the super-mart in our OMR apartments complex, and also the nearby vegetable stalls at Padur and Kelambakkam rely on Koyambedu  Mr Radhakrishnan talked about the potential for container gardening in the emerging high-rise communities on OMR.

Container gardening taken up in people's balcony saves high transporting cost of greens and things from Koyambedu wholesale veg. market.. Greens growing in your balcony enables housewives to use them fresh when needed, and in the quantity that is needed. You save space in the fridge that was earlier taken up by the greens. Salad greens are great to grow in containers, says a farming blog,  listing lettuce, spinach, arugula, mustard leaves, green onions, baby beet leaves, and other leafy greens. culinary herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, thyme, oregano, mint, chives. Most of the leafy green plants for salads and herbs can be grown  in pots holding 5–10 liters of soil, because they don’t get very big, and their roots are shallow.

Mr Radhakrishnan can be accessed at 9841023448. E-mail -

Saturday, April 6, 2013

How do parents react to kids raised on iPad ?

Engaged in interactive computer  - Sidharth, 7, with kid brother Nikhil,5.  Video by  granddad.

As I read author Hanna Rosin's article - The Touch-Screen Generation - I was thinking about my US-based grandsons, aged 5 and 7, who, I noticed, loved to spend time with an iPad during their India trip for a couple of weeks. They watch basketball, run car races, play tennis, chess, and do quite a few other things I am not familiar with. 

The Atlantic magazine article discusses the phenomenon of today's children spending more and more time with digital technology. What does it mean for their development ? Hanna Rosin, who disagrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics,  favours  the idea of children engaged with interactive digital media for their development.. She reckons a child who is adept with iPad hardly needs any teaching. The Academy of Pediatrics wouldn't recommend children's exposure to digital media, even though over 90 percent of American parents say their kids - even 2-year olds - are exposed to some form of electronic media at home.

The question, as Hanna phrased it,  how would you want today's children to deal with technology ? Parents who, in their own childhood learned to  curb technology , would want their kids to keep off it. Those who realise  inevitability of increasing role of technology in daily life would rather want to see their young ones to integrate technology , making it a natural, organic part of life.

Hanna Rosin is not among those who believe free and open exposure leads to addiction. As part of parenting those bringing up young kids amid a digital clutter around their house - smart phone,  iPad, computer, interactive Tv etc -  would do well to be discriminative enough to understand when their kids engaged with iPad are concentrating intensely ; and when  iPad becomes an addiction. Incidence of iPad addiction among children is a rare phenomenon, says Hanna Roasin.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Plea to CREDAI: Community waste-to-energy plant

The Hindu report on Chennai civic body's initiative for area-specific bio-gas plants with food-traders participation should be read with an earlier post in this blog - Waste-to-energy plant: A Padur proposal.

The Hindu report: Chennai Corporation, at a meeting with representatives of hotelsThe , marriage halls and other commercial food business operators asked the traders to commission decentralised waste processing facility based on a technology of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

OMR Resident : OMR Greens would like to see a zero waste project set up at Padur as a cost-sharing venture involving the civic body, developers and residents of Mantri Synergy,  Akshayas,  TVH,  ETA,  X S Real and the Gem Group. Corporate offices located in the area can be tapped for CSR funding.

The Chennai corporation, faced with resistance from traders to a hike in conservancy charges, is seeking to promote private-funded  bio-gas plants in various areas. The BARC model for waste processing provides for source segregation of garbage and energy generation from bio-waste. The technology offers a decentralized way of garbage disposal as 300 sq. ft. of land is enough to process one tonne of waste a day.

OMR Greens suggestion for joint-venture bio-gas plants, involving panchayat, residents, real-estate developers and CSR-minded corporates, addresses waste-processing  needs of emerging OMR residential communities that do not come under Chennai municipal corporation. When OMR Greens representatives broached the subject at a recent meeting with Mrs Snehal Mantri she expressed the view that such proposals work better if they are taken up by CREDAI, developers association, with the govt. and the relevant authorities. On her part, Mrs Mantri offered to refer our plea to CREDAI chief (Tamil Nadu Chapter) and Akshaya founder Mr T Chitty Babu.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Waste-to-energy project: A Padur proposal

In his budget speech, Tamil Nadu Finance Minister O.Paneerselvam admitted that solid waste management in urban areas was a major challenge. “This government will continue to promote source segregation and recycling to  limit the disposal of solid waste through land fills,” he said. “Waste to energy projects will be established wherever possible,” the Finance Minister said in the budget speech 2013-2014.
- From The Hindu

This patch of vacant land, presumably,  under Padur panchayat jurisdiction,  holds out possibilities for a community composts yard and waste-to-energy plant. OMR Greens, community service initiative, would like to see a zero waste project set up at Padur as a cost-sharing venture involving the civic body, developers of residential high-rises in Padur and residents of Mantri Synergy,  Akshayas,  TVH,  ETA,  X S Real and the Gem Group. Corporate offices located in the area can be tapped for CSR funding.
If panchayat can allocate the land, we can seek the co-operation of the Hindustan University environment dept. in getting ready a project report. Which can, then, be taken up for official clearances and funding. OMR Greens would do the leg work and networking.    
A cluster approach to developing civic infrastructure in emerging residential areas along OMR, and decentralised waste disposal system appears a credible way to go. And if a waste collection and disposal system can be put in place at Padur, we could be a trend-setter for such joint initiative else in OMR, and, indeed, the rest of the fast-growing city that doesn't come under Chennai municipal corporation.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Mamallapuram: Kitchen waste powers street lights

The Mamallapuram  branch of Adyar Ananda Bhavan generates 30 kg. kitchen waste a day.  A seaside resort  across the East Coast Road accounts  for 10 times more of food waste.  There are 700 odd eateries in this tourist town.  Till about five years back,  food waste from  Mamallapuram restaurants and hotels  wound up at  the municipal landfill.
And then,  came a bio-gas plant that converts kitchen waste into electricity.  I don’t know who made the first move,  but Vivekananda Kendra -  a Kanyakumari based NGO -   designed and set up this plant,  on a reclaimed  patch  of the municipal garbage dump yard.  The  waste-to-energy plant  is run by another NGO – Hand-in-Hand.

Mr M Raja of  Hand-in-Hand who conducted us around the plant -  a group of  OMR Greens  members from Padur -  explained at length the waste-to-energy conversion process,  from door-step collection of food waste to transmission of the converted electricity that powered 25 street lights.  Over 40 waste collectors are engaged;  and their remunaration is covered by the collection charges paid by the eating houses.  A minimum levy for kitchen waste collection is Rs.50 a month  and the chrages vary in accordance with the quantum of food waste collection.
The Mamamallapuram  waste-to-energy plant is a collective enterprise,  of several stakeholders. The plant,  designed by an NGO, and located on panchayat land,  is run by another NGO,  with  monthly contributions by eateries.  The 10 kilowatts generator running on bio-gas produced by Kirloskars,   costing Rs.20 lakhs  (at the 2008 price level),  is a donation from Sweden.  Under the renewable energy programme  the town panchayat is eligible to Rs.4 lakh subsidy.
Mr Raja,  so knowledgeable on so many aspects,  couldn’t,  however, tell us  the one thing  we needed to know -  the unit cost for producing power from kitchen waste.  We wanted this info., if only to push the waste-to-energy  proposal  to  Padur  panchayat  and other stakeholders. Diesel generator driven power costs over Rs.15 per unit.  Ideally,  there should be a waste-to-energy unit for every panchayat  and in setting it up all stakeholders in the neighbourhood  need to be involved -  residents,  other individuals and institutions  generating waste,  property developers responsible for mushrooming residential high-rises ,  and the panchayat.
A bio-gas plant developed by Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) lends itself to  decentralized waste disposal system. For a plant with capacity to process one tonne waste daily requires  no more than 300 sq.ft.  of land.  And a tonne of bio-degradeable waste can produce 25-30 kg. of methane,  about 150 kg. carbon dioxide and  nearly 60 kg of organic manure.  Besides kitchen and veg. market wastes,  and those generated in abattoirs,  the BARC bio-gas model can take in even hazardous biological sludge
The plant,  they say can be operated by unskilled workers  such as rag-picker  Ramesh  and his folks at Padur .   All they require is one-month training.

Posted from My Take by GVK

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Cash can't buy creativity

I admit Dan Pink  isn't  a name I was familiar with  till my neighbour  Kalayani Rangarajan made a reference to his work in her e-mail about a seminar  on motivation  to be held  this Friday,  at VIT University campus on Vandalur-Kelambakkam Rd., Chennai.. Dr. Rangarajan  is dean of  VIT Business School, and the seminar - a Corporate Conclave addressed to senior executives - takes off  from  Dan Pink's proposition on  'what motivates people to better their performance'.  Many of us can't be faulted for thinking cash rewards can motivate people to do better. This would be true in case of  shop-floor staff engaged in routine, repetitive work - machine operator, meat-packer or beedi-roller.
Money could be an answer in case of a strata of workers. But is it the only motivational factor ? Or is money an answer, at all ?  Dan Pink would have us believe money isn't what motivates people. In this regard he talks about three things -  autonomy, mastery and purpose.
This,  then, is the issue that speakers at the corporate conclave would address. Dan Pink, in his the book - Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us -  trashes the carrot & stick approach that companies adopt to motivate employees. The practice of giving cash rewards for better performance; of punishing those failing to deliver, says the author,  is outdated, unexamined, and is rooted more in corporate folklore than on scientific findings.
Many senior scientists, engineers and other professionals engaged in open-source  programme  tend not only do a better job of whatever they are good at, but they also give it away free to all-comers. It is not profit, but it is purpose that motivates people to do what they do in their discretionary time. Wikipedia is an example, says Dan, of what can be accomplished  if companies re-think the way they run business. Another example he cites in support of his case is the practice adopted at Google, where employees are allowed to spend  20 percent of their Google time (one day in a five-day week) doing their own thing; to work on their pet interests or project.  
VIT's Corporate Conclave
3 p m - 6 p m
March 1 (Friday)
VIT campus, Vandalur-Kelambakkam Rd.

Those interested can register their names for participation at this link.