World Environment Day is an appropriate occasion to turn a spotlight on the invention of Mangal Turbine, which boosts rural productivity and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
This is a time of increasing global concern on climate change. If in such times, an invention that has been praised time and again for its potential to rein in greenhouse gas emissions is badly neglected, then what should we say?
This is all the more troubling in the context of the locally developed Mangal Turbine, as in addition this has the potential of greatly reducing irrigation costs of farmers, enhancing drinking water supply, contributing to decentralised renewal energy and promoting rural industries, thus addressing some of the key concerns of our times.
A report of an official committee appointed by the Rural Development Ministry of the Union Government —the Maithani Committee Report — has highly recommended this device.
Mangal Turbine is a device for lifting water from streams or nullah or canal without using diesel or electricity, but by using the energy of flowing water. Farmer-scientist Mangal Singh invented it in the late 1980s.
Mangal Singh is a farmer of Bundelkhand who was known at a young age for his enterprising and innovative farming methods. He used to see that small farmers with low resources have a lot a difficulty in buying diesel for lifting water from streams and rivulets. He started thinking a lot about the possibilities of lifting water from small rivers, nullahs and canals without having to depend on diesel or electricity. He invented a device that could lift water by just using the energy of flowing streams.
He called his invention Mangal Turbine. It was first demonstrated in 1987. Mangal Singh was 40 at that time. Later, it was patented as Mangal Water Wheel Turbine Machine (Patent No. 177190, dated 13-11-1997) as per Government of India gazette Notification dated November 30, 1998.
“The machine consists of a water wheel, which is firmly mounted on a steel shaft and is supported on two bearing blocks fixed on a foundation. The shaft is coupled with a suitable gearbox through universal couplings for stepping up the speed of rotation,” says Singh, describing his invention. “The output shaft of the gear box is coupled on one end with a centrifugal pump for lifting water. The other end is mounted with a suitable pulley for deriving power for operating any machine.”
“The design of the water wheel turbine is simple. It is available in different sizes to meet varying requirements,” he adds. “Anyone can operate the machine by opening the wooden or steel gate valve. The machine is stopped by stopping the flow of water through the gate.”
Apart from lifting water, a Mangal Turbine can also be used for several additional tasks. “It can be used for pumping water from rivulets and water streams on which it is installed. The machine can be used for several rural works such as operating atta chakki (flour mill), crushing, threshing and winnowing, etc.,” says Singh. “The machine provides a clean, alternative source of energy in remote rural areas for increasing agricultural productivity, income and employment.” By linking it to a generator, this machine can also provide electricity.
The Maithani Report said: “By using the energy of flowing water in a stream, Mangal Turbine enables lifting of water for irrigation and drinking purposes and also produces mechanical power that can be used for various other purposes.” At least two former Secretaries of the Rural Development Ministry — B.K. Sinha and S.R. Sankaran — were known to be admirers of Mangal Singh’s efforts. B.K. Sinha has spoken widely about the great usefulness of the invention.
B.K. Saha, former Chief Secretary of the government of Madhya Pradesh, has written about this device. “I made a detailed analysis of the economic viability of the ‘wheel’ and its comparative advantage vis-a-vis alternative methods of pumping water from streams and small rivers for irrigation,” he wrote. “The system is extremely cost-effective even after taking into consideration the cost of the stop dam. Where a stop dam is already available, the system is even more cost-effective. Installation of this device is strongly recommended wherever there is flowing water in small streams by constructing a stop dam and installing one or two water wheels as designed and developed by Shri Mangal Singh. It saves on energy like electricity or diesel and is ecologically completely benign.”
“It is undoubtedly unparalleled in its simplicity and utility. Its cost benefit cannot be restricted to the extent of area irrigated and increase in production and income on account of that,” says the Maithani Report. “Its benefits are multiple and multi-dimensional.”
The value of Mangal Singh’s work has increased further in recent times as the need to curb fossil fuel consumption and the related greenhouse gas emissions has increased.
It has been estimated that if one unit of Mangal Turbine runs for 11 hours in a day, it saves 44 litres of diesel in a day, assuming the use of 4 litres of diesel per hour by 25 HP pump. If the turbine is used for irrigation for 190 days in a year, it can avoid the burning of 8,360 litres (44×190) of diesel in a typical year.
Over a lifetime of 15 years, a Mangal Turbine can potentially avoid burning as much as 125,400 litres (8360×15) of diesel. Using assumptions made in US Environment Protection Agency fact sheet, this works out to a saving of 335 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. This estimate is made on the basis of the assumption that one unit of Mangal Turbine will lift water from a stream that is equivalent to 25 HP diesel pump, and irrigate a command area of 50 hectares.
Reduction in diesel consumption and related emissions can increase significantly to the extent that the turbine is used, in addition to lifting water, for various farm-related activities.
Civil Society, a journal on development issues, has honoured Mangal Singh with its Hall of Fame Award. The Award was presented to Mangal Singh by social activist Aruna Roy.
After inventing the machine at a relatively young age of 40, Mangal Singh has since then distinguished himself by his tireless work and great commitment to spread his work, making improvements in it and trying to experiment at various sites to improve the location-specific effectiveness of his invention. He has continued to work despite adverse conditions and great financial constraints for nearly 32 years till now (1987-2019).
Mangal Singh is now 72 years old. He has suffered a lot of hardship in recent years. Adequate help should be extended to him to install at least 100 Mangal Turbines while training rural youth with a technical flair in the work so that this technology with worldwide potential can spread further and make its contribution to reducing the use of fossil fuels, promote decentralised renewable energy, and help farmers and rural industry.