Monday, February 13, 2012

Water Mill Wasteland -- Ratna Gill, FHS '11 Harvard '16

Hello again, Enviro students! This morning, my grandfather took me to a water mill, where wheat is ground into flour by a stone which is turned by the energy of rushing water.

Below, you can see a drop in the canal which powers the mill. A bit farther upstream, a small channel leaves the main canal, flowing under the building in which the water mill is located.

When the water flows through the blades attached to the shaft of the mill, the millstone rotates.

As you can see in the video below, grains of wheat fall from a container suspended above the stone, are ground by the stone, and then emerge as a fine flour.  

After passing under the building, the water is returned to the main canal -- thus, no water is wasted in this process.

Because the grain is ground so slowly by this technique, it becomes "cold flour" -- that is, it retains many of the vital nutrients which are lost in traditional electric grinding. Thus, the flour is as healthful as the process is environmentally friendly. Win-win, right?

Nope. When we visited today, only one such wheel was working, out of the five which are present at the facility. This is for two reasons. 1) Low government funding prevents adequate maintenance of the facility. 2) The facility is located a ways out of town, and citizens of the village all have ready access to electrically operated flour mills. Because of paucity of time and awareness, few wish to make the trip out to the water mill to get this more healthy and sustainable flour. The man whose family currently operates the mill admitted frankly that the model is not financially feasible because of heavy lease money and low demand -- he simply continues to do it because it has been a family tradition for the last hundred years.

While I was very excited to tour this facility, this same excitement and support does not exist among members of the community. I wonder if this water mill will be here the next time I visit.

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