According to reports, the State government has allocated Rs.5.55 crore for the installation of biogas plants in schools to ensure cheap fuel for preparation of mid-day meals and food self-sufficiency.
As per an order issued by the Agriculture Department issued recently, 3,825 biogas plants will be installed in primary, upper primary, and high schools across the State, giving students an opportunity to access organically grown vegetables for their noon meal.
Dividing the number of plants among the various schools, the order said 625 units would be installed in primary schools at a cost of Rs.83.99 lakh, 1,200 in upper primary schools for an estimated Rs.1.61 crore, and 2,000 in high schools for Rs.2.68 crore.
But experts and academics say the project stands every chance of floundering unless there is ‘unconditional societal involvement’ to ensure the success of this food security measure in schools.
The administrative sanction in the order follows an earlier Government Order (GO) by the Agriculture Department on December 13, saying the project was meant to provide effective bio-waste management and cheap and safe cooking gas for the preparation of mid-day meals for school students and provide enriched organic manure for school vegetable gardens.
However, academics and school authorities also point to a flip side. They say the two major restraints — lack of space in urban schools and summer holidays — will pose major challenges in its implementation.
“Urban schools do not even have proper space for playgrounds, leave alone vegetable gardens on the school premises. The situation in rural Kozhikode is almost the same with the extent of rapid urbanisation,” A. Pradeep Kumar, Kozhikode North MLA, said.
K. Prabhakaran, district vice-president of the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, points to how a biogas plant hosts a colony of methanogen micro-organisms that produces methane gas and manure. When this colony is not provided waste for two weeks, the plant will become dysfunctional. .
“Schools will be closed for 2.5 months every year. There will be no food waste during this time. Who will operate the plants during this time?” asks Beena Philip, Principal, Nadakkavu Girls Higher Secondary School.