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Mumbai’s Mahim church says amen to clean energy

At St Michael’s Church, solar panels have brought down monthly power bills by Rs24,000; biogas plant generates energy from daily organic waste

mumbai Updated: Jun 11, 2018 12:29 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mumbai church,Eco friendly church,Mahim church
The solar panel grid on the roof of Mahim Church and Canossa High School, Mahim in Mumbai.(HT Photo)

One of Mumbai’s oldest churches, St Michael’s in Mahim, has incorporated six environmental initiatives in its activities — solar panels, solar water heaters, energy efficient lights and fans, composting of organic waste, biogas from flower waste, and greening the church area.

The church is also spreading the message of environmentally-conscious living in the neighbourhood. St Xavier’s Technical Institute and Canossa Convent have also gone solar. Our Lady of Vailankani and Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Housing Society in Mari Nagar have gone a step further towards sustainability by setting up solar, rainwater, and compost systems to reduce energy, water, and waste.

Emmanuel D’Silva, an environmental scientist and technical advisor for the green initiatives at St Michael’s Church, said that while other green efforts started three years ago, solar installations began about a year ago at different locations in Mahim. “A lot of places here are becoming self-sufficient and the church is the newest addition to the list,” he said.

The church installed solar panels and grids to cut down on electricity costs. “The construction of a 20 kilowatt-hour (kWh) solar grid is almost complete. It would lower the church’s electricity bill by ₹24,000 per month and reduce its carbon footprint by 15 tonnes per year,” said Oswald Rodrigues, supervisor of the green projects.

D’Silva said that in a city like Mumbai, where power costs a lot, solar is the best way forward. “It is possible to recover the solar investment costs within three years in Mumbai whereas it takes six to seven years in the United States. Going solar also reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.”

In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’ — a 192-page document released to all bishops around the world — Pope Francis called on people of all faiths to take action against environmental degradation and confront the climate crisis. “Each one of us has a responsibility in keeping this earth in as good a shape as we found it for future generations,” said Father Simon Borges, parish priest at St Michael’s Church.

The church also treats the waste it generates and composts the organic part of it. “The church generates between 40 and 60kg of flower waste each week from Wednesday’s special prayers called novenas. Earlier, the flowers used to go to a municipal dump, now it is converted into biogas. An additional byproduct is liquid manure. Earlier, the church used to buy compost or manure for the plants on its premises,” said D’Silva.

The biogas plant that D’Silva talks about is a new addition to the church —installed about a couple of weeks ago. “It is Mumbai’s first biogas unit to run on flower waste. About 5kg of flower waste is put inside the biogas digester every day, which generates 1.5 hours to two hours of gas for cooking and six to eight litres of liquid manure, which is used to nurture the green cover around the church,” said D’Silva.

He said Mumbai produces about 200 tonnes of flower waste each day, most of which wind up in the municipal dump. “If instead, these flowers were used to produce gas, one could run the entire BEST fleet from a depot.”

HT had reported in April last year how Our Lady of Vailankani society at Mary Nagar, Mahim, which happens to be D’Silva’s housing society, went solar and reaped dividends. “Now Canossa High School (22kWh) and St Michael’s Church and School (20kWh) have gone solar. St Xavier’s Technical Institute went solar several years earlier. I have calculated that these locations can generate 215MWh of electricity per year, saving about ₹26 lakh and avoiding 162 tonnes of CO2 emissions,” said D’Silva.

First Published: Jun 04, 2018 12:13 IST