Villages Lit Up By Solar Lanterns

In a village in Cuttack District, Orissa, a village now has access to sustainable light after sundown due to solar technology. Residents in Community Correspondent Sarita Biswal’s village, located in Cuttack District, Orissa, have had their lives changed by the distribution of solar lanterns. Before villagers received these lanterns, Sarita says that life for villagers was very difficult because they didn’t have electricity or water, and used to use kerosene lamps, which was very expensive and inconvenient for villagers. “Earlier we used kerosene lamps. They were inconvenient. We couldn’t carry them anywhere, the wind or rain would blow them out,” says a local village woman. This is a very common problem is rural India. The Energy Resources Institute (TERI) reports that over 1.4 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity, with around 25% of those people in India. The Lighting A Billion Lives (LaBL) campaign, under the auspices of TERI, was inaugurated on February 7, 2008, and aims to provide one billion people in rural India with solar lamp technology. Over the last two years, TERI and the LaBL campaign, in cooperation with a local NGO, Sambandh, and the Asian Development Bank, has distributed solar lamps to people in Sarita’s village. The lamps are charged, for free, from a charging station that draws its power from solar panels installed on a rooftop. TERI had solar lamps designed specifically for this campaign. There are two types of solar lamps: compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), as well as light emitting diodes (LEDs). The CFL can provide illumination for specific tasks like studying and cooking for up to 4-5 hours daily, and the LED lanterns can provide general low-level illumination during the night for 6-7 hours. The lanterns are expected to last 10 years, replacing the use of around 500-600 liters of kerosene and 1.5 tons of CO2. Villagers’ lives have been changed as a result of TERI, Sambandh, and the Asian Development Bank’s work. Sarita asks another local village woman how her life has changed as a result of switching from kerosene to solar lanterns, the woman says, “When we used kerosene, things were difficult. We used to spend a lot of money.” In addition to the monetary impact of these lanterns, they are also impacting the environment, health, safety, and education of villagers. “Our children can now use this light to study. We can go out at night without any trouble. Cooking is not a problem anymore despite not having electricity,” says another local village woman. Solar lamp technology is not only sustainable and does not contribute any pollution to the surrounding area, but it vastly improves the health of villagers. Before they received solar lanterns, villagers were forced to light their homes with kerosene lamps, which produce soot that sticks to walls, dung cakes, firewood, and crop residue, according to TERI. The constant presence of smoke and ash that travels into people’s eyes and throats leads to infections and coughing. Many people suffered from frequent eye infections. The people in Sarita’s village suffer no more as a result of these solar lanterns. Their health has improved, their children can study at night, and every day tasks such as cooking have become easier. They are able to travel with ease outside of their homes after sunset. Sarita says, “Due to these solar lamps, a lot of lives have been changed in my village.” By Shawna Russo

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