Dehradun, July 19, 2015

The traditional water mills, popularly known as 'gharat's have been playing a vital role in the lives of the people of Uttarakhand for several decades.

Apart from the grinding work for which they were exclusively used for in the earlier days, the mills are now being used for electricity generation in rural Uttarakhand. With over 15,000 gharats spread in both Kumaon and Garhwal, the gharats light up thousands of homes in villages.

Uttarakhand Rural Energy Development Agency (UREDA), project director, AK Tyagi said: "The watermills not only provide electricity to small areas but are also used for grinding grains. Up-graded watermill produces power up to 5 kW which is sufficient for electrification 20-25 families within the diameter of 500 meters."

According to the state government's record, over 6000 gharats have been revived and the work is going on in all places. Apart from generating power and grinding work, revival of all water mills has immense potential in terms of employment to locals. However, migration and a streak of disinterest on the part of the natives have proved to a deterrent.

Speaking with TOI, Mahesh Bhatt, an Uttarkashi-based innovator, said: "Gharats are basically technological innovation of our forefathers who used water energy to move circular stone-slabs for grinding wheat. The gharats were owned by individuals, gram panchayats in all villages near to the water streams."

Bhatt has revived over 500 gharats in different places and admitted that lack of interest of locals comes in way of reviving gharats in Uttarakhand. "I revived my first gharat in 1994. After that I kept working on the turbine and alternator to get the right power output. After, that I never looked back and just focused on reviving water mills," said Bhatt. The machines he developed have been certified by IIT Roorkee and he is now linked with the UREDA for working on the revival of water mills.

So far, UREDA has upgraded 1512 watermills (including both electrical output and mechanical output watermills). Improved watermill can be used for different types of works. "A person can earn enough through grinding grains, oil extraction and supply of generated electricity to nearby households. It can also operate welding machine, small workshop, cyber cafe, fruit processing unit and can generate income," said Tyagi.

The state government gives subsidy to the water mill owners opting for upgrade but it has failed to woo miller owners both in plains and hills. Dr Anil Joshi, founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organization (HESCO), said: "The potential of gharats has not been tapped fully. The state government must involve expert groups to make power generation clusters from the abandoned gharats rural areas."

"The state government must sync the revival of gharats for power generation and setting-up of a special grid to ensure supply to rural villages. But unfortunately it has not been attempted and rural areas continue to be without electricity even now," added Joshi.
Courtesy: Times Of India

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