Hot off the biogas
Channelling its waste water into cooking gas, a vegetarian restaurant in Kottawa gives an environmentally-friendly culinary lesson
Go Green going places
Weerasiri café is the model that the Go Green team is using to promote biogas for commercial use.
The Go Green team comprises students reading for a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) degree at the Faculty of Management and Finance, University of Colombo.
“Most people in rural or urban areas are aware of biogas, yet we have taken up the challenge of promoting it as we have found that it is one of the best alternatives, when considering the ever-increasing prices of LP gas and fossil fuel,” a team spokesperson said.
The Go Green team has created a web blog (http://wegogreen.blogspot.com) and is contactable on the email: Gogreen2007@googlegroups.com
Weerasiri: A model in the promotion
It’s a busy working day at the Kottawa junction and as vehicles whiz past on High Level Road many are the people stepping into the large and airy vegetarian café, in the heart of the town, to be served steaming hot vadai, smoking thosai or string hoppers with curries giving out mouth-watering odours.
After eating the delicious fare and sipping a frothy milk tea, when the patrons of the Weerasiri café wash their fingers of the indul, they are oblivious to the fact that the waste water is put to good use.
Yes, the waste water is sent through a rigid filtering process and the biogas thus obtained utilized in the cooking.
In one section of the café’s large kitchens, a huge container with rice is on the boil while another container is bubbling with a mixed vegetable curry while in another area a giant wok is about to be taken off the merrily burning hearth, with another stir, as the dhal curry is just right.
The steamer connected to the containers and one burner of the hearth are both operated on biogas.
Weerasiri café, now run by Wikum Weerakkody, 42, was a “hand-me-down” from father to son. His beginnings as the café owner were fine, the routine continued. Then the problems cropped up – where was the café, begun way back in 1962, channelling its waste water?
It was sending its large volume of waste water into Kottawa’s main network of drains, as it had done from the beginning. The drains, with everyone else’s waste water as well, were directed to the wela or marshy area in Kottawa. The stench was unbearable.
That was not good enough and the community had gone to court. Realizing the need to go into action mode, Mr. Weerakkody attended all meetings firstly of the Homagama Pradeshiya Sabha and later of the Maharagama Urban Council when Kottawa fell under its purview.
“We first constructed waste water pits but they were not successful,” said Mr. Weerakkody, explaining that at one meeting with the Maharagama UC, there was a suggestion that he, along with several other café owners should go to the National Engineering Research and Development (NERD) Centre, after a consultant there had shown them detailed drawings and explained the concept.
Strategically-located Weerasiri café, serving around 800 people daily was interested in the technology not only with regard to biogas but also with garbage management and Mr. Weerakkody even went to Negombo to see a successful model.
The germ of the biogas idea then took root and it became a reality at the café, after Mr. Weerakkody was able to secure a loan at low interest to meet the large investment costs.
Biogas came into use at the café in 2007 and Mr. Weerakkody is now awaiting a permit from the Central Environmental Authority, with the initial okay being given by the Maharagama UC.
Both the waste water and the water from the toilets are sent through a filtering process, producing biogas, with the end result being that clean water is now channelled to the drainage system.
“There is no smell,” smiles Mr. Weerakkody, who is thinking of expanding the system. For, each day, he saves the money spent on one and a half cylinders of LP gas by using biogas as an alternative source of energy.
These days when gas prices are rising sky-high like gas-filled balloons, the biogas plant is an asset for this café owner, while ensuring that he is not polluting the environment of Kottawa.