An effort to encourage hygienic preparation of dry fish products by women engaged in fish trade at Kovalam by tapping renewable energy has flopped.
The integrated solar hot air generating system installed at a cost of Rs. 8.98 lakh in 2005 has no takers now.
Built under Swarnjayanthi Gram Swarozgar Yojna (SGSY) scheme, the 1,200 sq. ft building has solar panels installed on the roof to heat air up to 60 to 65 degrees Celsius. The air was blown into the fish-drying chamber.
Four high-speed fans were used to ensure even distribution of hot air inside the chamber containing two racks, with a capacity to hold 56 trays, for quick removal of moisture from fishes.
Around 250 kg of fish could be dried within four to eight hours, depending on the size and variety, using this facility.
Being a common facility set up using SGSY funds, a group of around 20 women self-help groups, engaged in the fresh fish trade in Kovalam, were roped in and a woman SHG federation formed to operate this unit in association with the local body, official sources said.
This common facility did elicit some response from the beneficiaries initially. However, it was slowly abandoned as the beneficiaries realised that the immediate disposal of the catch was more remunerative when compared to marketing of dry fish products, said Janakiraman, panchayat president, Kovalam.
Further, the difficulties in marketing dry fish and lack of experience/exposure in manufacturing and marketing of value added products using dry fish as the main ingredient, led to the closure.
Mr. Janakiraman said that he had asked the Fisheries Department not to set up another solar-powered fish drying unit in the hamlet when the officials approached him with one such proposal recently.
He had also suggested that existing facility might be renewed and a value-added product manufacturing facility be added to it.
However, he added that with the sea remaining rough on most days and the strike calls given by various fishermen associations to highlight issues affecting the fishermen community in the State, local fishermen hardly get to venture into sea regularly.