This piece has been written by Manish Pandey, from TERI. In these days, when everyone is promoting alternative energy, I feel TERI is doing a tremendous work. Let’s learn something and contribute to it.
Over 1.6 billion people in the world lack access to electricity; roughly 25% are in India alone. For these people, life comes to a standstill after dusk. Inadequate lighting is not only an impediment to progress and development opportunities, but also has a direct impact on the health, environment, and safety of millions of people as they are forced to light their homes with kerosene lamps, dung cakes, firewood, and crop residue after sunset. Recognizing the need to change the existing scenario, TERI, with its vision to work for global sustainable development and its commitment towards creating innovative solutions for a better tomorrow has undertaken an initiative of “Lighting a Billion Lives©” (LaBL) through the use of solar lighting devices.
The LaBL Campaign aims to bring light into the lives of one billion rural people by displacing the kerosene and paraffin lanterns with solar lighting devices, thereby facilitating education of children; providing better illumination and smoke free indoor environment for women to do household chores; and providing opportunities for livelihoods both at the individual level and at village level.
The campaign with its humble solar lanterns has already illuminated the lives of 5000 households (27000 lives) spread over 100 villages in 9 states of India, including 500 lanterns in Myanmar, touching the lives of Cyclone Nargis affected areas as well as the flood-affected areas of Bihar in India. At the household level, the campaign has provided a smoke-free indoor environment for women to do household chores, extended working hours for rural communities in fields and shops, provided longer studying hours for children, and a safe and secure movement for the village elders at night. In many villages in India, the campaign has facilitated small-scale industry activities such as betel-leaf farming in West Bengal, eco-tourism activities in the tribal areas of Orissa, and basket-making cottage industry in Rajasthan.
Apart from providing reliable and ensured lighting to households at an affordable rate, the campaign has also facilitated entrepreneurial development among rural communities by enabling them to operate charging stations and rent out the lanterns to the villagers. The Campaign, while facilitating socio-economic development of the village, also offers local and global environmental benefits. Each solar lantern in its useful life of 10 years, displaces the use of about 400-5001 litres of kerosene thereby mitigating about 1.452 tonne of CO2.
The campaign requires committed individuals and like-minded organizations who can take up the cause of lighting villages. While on one hand considerable funding is required to enlighten the lives of a billion people worldwide, on the other, a pool of volunteers are needed to take up a series of activities at the ground level.
Solar technology, being very costly for the rural people, requires initial support. As such the Campaign is sponsorship driven wherein villages/lanterns are sponsored by like-minded individuals and organizations. The implementation model for LaBL is based on setting up centralised solar lantern charging stations consisting 50 lanterns in each of the identified villages. The campaign is implemented through LaBL Associates who are grass-roots level organisations in the NGO sector as well as local government units. The Associates coordinate, monitor and advance the Campaign in their areas of operations and directly supervise and hand-hold entrepreneurs. Distribution and servicing of solar lanterns is carried out through a local entrepreneur, selected and trained by TERI in association with LaBL Associates. The solar lantern charging station set up in the village is under the charge of this entrepreneur. Lanterns are rented out to the rural communities on payment of a nominal fee. The fee is collected by the entrepreneur, a part of which goes towards a “maintenance corpus fund”. The fund is used towards maintaining the charging station year after years.