Sunday, June 6, 2010

Solar energy changing lives in remote,backward Tharparkar region

Environment-friendly solar energy has changed the lives of several hundred households in Tharparkar, which remains one of the most backward regions of the country.

The Alternate Energy Development Board, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and Thardeep Rural Development Programme ñ a non-governmental organisation ñ have joined hands to launch the solar energy project in this arid region at a time when the country faces massive electricity shortage.

In a vast desert region like Tharparkar, where temperature hit a peak of 30-35 degrees Celsius even in winters and touches a high of over 50 degrees Celsius during summers, the scorching rays of sun are usually seen as a bane.

But for the first time, this immeasurable resource is being utilised like any other modern place of the world.

Solar energy is not just providing electricity to the mud-and-straw houses of remote villages, but also helps irrigate small patches of land.

“The electricity has changed our lives,” said Khanno, a 45-year-old farmer, who like most residents of this place uses only one name. “Electricity has extended our day. Now my children can study even after the sunset.”

The solar energy project, launched two years ago, has so far provided electricity to 16 villages at a cost of more than Rs100 million, including the villages of Kasbo, Rarko, Wadhanjowadhio and Oanjowadhio ñ all in Tharparkar district.

Riaz Rajar, an official of Thardeep Rural Development Programme, said that one panel costs around Rs700,000 to Rs800,000.

"We install at least eight such panels in a village, which is a one time investment," he said. "They generate enough electricity to illuminate 20 to 30 houses."

“Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund contributes 80 per cent of the funds and the remaining 20 per cent is raised by the local community,” Rajar said.

He said that electricity-run power pumps help pull water from 50 to 150 feet below the surface.

“Apart from drinking, this water is also used for irrigation through drip technique to save wastage and conserve this precious natural resource, which is scarce in this region.”

Scarcity of water in Tharparkar, bordering the Great Indian Desert, impacts the entire population, especially women, who had to walk miles to fetch two buckets of water from the wells.

But electric pumps have made their life easy.

Now solar energy is being used to pull water, which is stored in cement tanks.

Khanno, the farmer, said that thanks to electricity he now manages to cultivate onions and tomatoes on his two acres of once barren land.

According to SciDev, a London-based non-profit organisation, there is no shortage of solar energy across the world. Almost all the developing countries have enormous solar power potential, it said in a report.

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