In the heart of darkness, they make light
MANGALORE: Tucked away in the Western Ghats, 90 km for Mangalore, is a tribe that depends on its wit for survival. Ignored by the Government and tired of the darkness, the 'Male Kudis' (hill tribe) of Kodyadi have developed a method of generating their own electricity.
It all began when the community's `recognised leader' Elyanna returned after completing his BA at Ujire in 1995.
After conceptualising several models in his mind, Elyanna designed the first cycle generator. The working was simple. Coated aluminum tumblers were fitted around a cycle rim. The mouth of the tumblers faced a water source, the force of which helped the wheel rotate.
"The power was sufficient to light three bulbs. Based on our needs, we used to set up this cycle generator and generate power," Elyanna said in Tulu.
Though it cost only Rs 100, Elyanna realised the cycle generator wasn't the right thing for the long term. He, along with his team (Srinivas and his brother Manjanna), decided to refine the invention.
After a year and more, several trials and errors later, the earlier invention evolved into a smaller prototype, the main components of which were a wheel and a tank. The small wheel, anchored by a heavier wheel (for support), was placed at the mouth of the water source (with supporting logs). The wheel was connected to a DC dynamo (trucks's dynamo). To make it an effective generator, Elyanna's team set up a funnel-shaped cement tank at a higher altitude. "To increase the pressure of water flow, a broad pipe was attached to the base of the tank. This gets narrow as it reaches the mouth of the pipe," Elyanna said, pointing to the 30-feet deep tank.
Though they are not aware of the speed of the water flowing from the pipe, the team claims the gushing water leaps 40 ft from the mouth of the pipe. "If Rs 5,000 (excluding labour charges) had been spent on the tank and another Rs 1,000 on the prototype, the end result is the power generated from the prototype will light 10 bulbs," Elyanna said triumphantly.
The settlement in the Western Ghats remains unconnected with the outside world. The tribesmen enjoying a reputation of being fiercely independent. They trudge downhill about 9 km to make a telephone call. For provisions, they travel another 6 km from Aniyoor to Kakkinge. If they're lucky they get a KSRTC bus or `service-jeep'.
The team now wants to use the prototype to provide power to all 60 houses. Admitting that a resource crunch has delayed their project, they refuse to prostrate before the Government and beg for funds.