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A little village in the sun

Here is a bright little village in Andhra Pradesh that is all solar and smoke-free — the first of its kind in the country.

Bysanivaripalle, 125 km northwest of Tirupati, has 36 families. Their main means of livelihood is sericulture. The eco-conscious residents of the electrified village went in for the first biogas plant in the region two decades ago. The officials of the Non-Conventional Energy Development Corporation of Andhra Pradesh (NEDCAP) did not need to put in much effort to motivate them to go solar.

Intersol, an Austrian non-governmental organisation, sponsored the provision of "Sk-14" cookers here last year. Gadhia Solar, a Valsad-based environmental body that imports, supplies and installs them, executed the job. It is the single largest cluster of cookers that Gadhia Solar has installed anywhere. A group of schoolchildren from Austria visited the village last year to witness the project.

"With 23 biogas plants and 26 solar cookers, we do not have to use a matchstick," says Sadananda Reddy, a progressive sericulturist who was honoured by the Karnataka Government recently for his top quality cocoons.

Apart from preparing rice, the solar cookers are used to fry chips, roast peanuts and make traditional Andhra sweets. Eyeing sales in the nearby Madanapalle town, a few enterprising people are baking cakes and biscuits too.

The physically challenged local washerman has stopped buying coal: he keeps his traditional iron on the cooker and takes it out burning hot in 10 minutes before he flattens creases into a starchy crisp.

Says Papulamma, who cooks midday meals for 48 children in the village school: "No need to go to the forest anymore to fetch firewood. I cook the meal in less than two hours and avoid coughing, and burning in the eyes." To counter the harsh sunrays, NEDCAP has provided the women sunglasses.

The village saves 72 tonnes of firewood, or 5,832 kg of LPG, cutting carbon dioxide emissions to the tune of 104 tonnes a year, according to Jagadeeswar Reddy, NEDCAP's district manager.

The village has come in for praise from the developer of the Sk-14 cooker, Dieter Seifert of Germany. In an e-mail message, he says: "There may be places where there are more number of solar cookers, but I have never come across an entire village using just solar cookers and biogas, which makes it a smoke-free village in the real sense."

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