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Apr 13, 2009

Bringing light to rural households, the green way

Bringing light to Indian villages that are without electricity is still a dream. Three organisations and a student body, in a small way, have taken a step in lighting up the lives of the rural folk. Not in the conventional way, but with the help of solar lanterns.

The Indian Youth Climate Network, Green Wings – the environmental student wing of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Darbari Green Energy Systems Limited, New Delhi (DGESL), and Shanti Ashram, Coimbatore, have joined hands for the implementation of a rural energy project that will light up the lives of 70 households of MGR Nagar and Ambedkar Nagar of Madukkarai Panchayat, to begin with.

At a programme got up to launch the solar lantern – The Sunflower – at Shanti Ashram on Sunday, K. Vanangamudi, Dean, Agriculture, TNAU, distributed the lanterns to select beneficiaries.The families in the villages live below the poverty line. They spend a few hundreds every month for kerosene to light up lamps so that children study after sunset. All this will come to an end with the entry of the Light-Emitting Diode-based solar lanterns provided by the DGESL.

Anuj Darbari, Director, DGESL, was highly elated about the launch of his product. “After the concept of extending green lighting to villages originated in Bali, Indonesia, a year ago, a few like-minded entrepreneurs launched this company in August 2008 with the sole aim of manufacturing energy-saving devices. The solar lantern is our first product and our aim is to light up 2,000 villages by 2010,” he said.

He added that the one-watt lantern was powered by charging the battery that was connected to a solar panel that was fitted to the roof of the house. It got charged with the help of sunlight and could burn continuously for 14 hours. The company was offering the lantern along with the panel to the villagers at a subsidised rate of Rs. 675. The retail price was Rs. 3,000. The life of the battery was more than a year. It could be replaced at Rs. 130.

According to S.R. Subramanian, Programme Co-ordinator, Shanti Ashram, the Ashram was already involved in the Youth and Hunger programme in the villages in Madukkarai Panchayat. “So when Green Wings approached us to identify some villages that were in dire need of electricity, we were able to help them. It is a cost-effective as well as an environmentally viable programme”.

The staff of the ashram had been trained to train the villagers in operating the solar panel and lantern and also in replacing the battery when required. The volunteers of the Green Wings had been going around the villages and motivating the people about the benefits of the lantern. A few lanterns were fitted sometime ago on a trial basis to create awareness about them to the villagers.

Digu Aruchamy, a final year student of Energy and Environmental Engineering of the TNAU and the Executive Director of Green Wings, said this was a small step in mitigating climate change and also helping the disadvantageous sections adapt to its impact. “It is a combination of youth initiative, corporate-social responsibility and passion of non-Governmental organisations that has helped in giving a new lease of life to those living in the dark” he said.

Villagers in Alwar region of Rajasthan would be the next beneficiaries of the project.

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