Date:31/10/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2005/10/31/stories/2005103101070300.htm
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Eco-friendly boat to ply backwaters

A pollution free, energy conscious houseboat will reduce the effluence in the backwaters



GREEN CAUSE The backwaters are now polluted with too many boats discharging too much waste and smoke

Say Kochi and you have tourists gushing, "Ah... the beautiful backwaters.." . Beautiful, yes, but boat rides and cruises keep polluting the waters and more tourism means more pollution. So, when Txuku and Joerg, of the Malabar House Residency at Fort Kochi, decided to embark upon the idea of extending their business to include a `kettuvallam', they knew it had to be ecology all the way.

With more than 400 odd houseboats plying the backwaters of Kerala, one can visualise the extent of damage caused by these boats on the environment, owing to the pollution from diesel and outboard engines. "That led us to think of creating a pollution

free, energy conscious houseboat," explains Joerg. First propped the idea of a sunshield made of photovoltronic panels that were eventually discarded due to poor energy output and the danger of being top-heavy.

Using LPG

Research and study ultimately led them to the idea of using liquid gas, a concept that was once developed by the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, which offered support and knowledge to the development of this pollution free system. "We converted a light weight petrol Suzuki engine into LPG coupling it with an alternator that feeds a battery bank equivalent to 20 deep charging batteries," says Joerg. Thus sufficient energy was generated for household use and propulsion. Run by an electric motor, it moves a large propeller on low speed that converts most of the energy into thrust, unlike a high speed one.

The couple has tried to go even into the finer nuances of their project, checking on details like- even air-conditioning and cooling. The lower deck that includes the bedroom and living room are built with an insulated combination of aluminium, plywood and rock wood, with double glassing to protect from the direct sunlight. In addition, the engine is connected to a compressor that produces 1500 kg of ice in a separate tank, acting as a coolant for the A/C system.

And for the fresh water and waste water systems, tanks related to these are located safely at the bottom of the hull, which includes those concerning human waste, fresh water filtration and one for filtration of waste water . At the end of the cruise the waste tanks are flushed out into an onshore waste water system ands as far as the hot water for the bathrooms are concerned, they remain a side product of the engine's cooling system, where a heat exchanger is attached to the water circuit of the engine.

Joerg explains the greatest challenge has been to integrate these various systems to run for eight hours at a stretch. So, they worked out a plan by which all systems will be charged for the night requiring no more backup from the engine and by using electrical shore power at night.

For the owners of the boat which is to set sail at the end of October, it has been a challenge well accomplished- Envisaging a project beyond just luxury and business. Instead it has been a vision to serve as an example of how exotic holidays can be made into a safe, comfortable and ecological experience.

TANYA ABRAHAM

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