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After sunset

india Updated: Jul 13, 2008 02:20 IST
Karyn Ostrom
Karyn Ostrom
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

When Lingarajpura Janatha Colony was established in Karnataka 16 years ago, people were reluctant to settle there. The land was allotted as part of a government scheme — but there was no power.

But that is changing. For the past month, the village’s 125 residents have received light when the sun sets. It comes in the form of energy collected during the day from four solar panel streetlights. In the evenings, the dirt road — once a dark haven for snakes and wild animals — is now a playground of sorts, where children flock to read their schoolbooks.

This hamlet in Bangalore North Taluk is one of roughly 80,000 villages in India and 295 in the state of Karnataka not served by the centralised power sector, according to statistics cited by the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Energy and Development.

Equipping Lingarajpura with renewable energy devices was the brainchild of the institute, which conducts experiments and demonstrates sustainable energy processes through training programmes. The faculty was eager to adopt a nearby village without electricity to demonstrate energy self-sufficiency. Meanwhile, a study is being conducted to examine the effects of renewable energy devices on the lives of the villagers, said HR Leelavathi, a faculty member.

The outdoor solar lighting units were provided through a partnership between the institute and The Solar Electric Light Company, a sustainable energy services provider. Solar power was the method chosen because the maintenance required during the first five years of installment is very low while the natural materials near the village were not sufficient to sustain a biomass operation, said Ritu Kakkar, the institute’s executive director.

Soon, the homes in Lingarajpura will boast indoor lighting as well. And this means that the residents, who are daily wage labourers at nearby farms, will no longer spend 25 percent of their income on kerosene. The money saved by the beneficiaries will be contributed toward paying for 10 percent of the project’s cost, which totals 10,000 rupees per home, said Kakkar.

In addition to the lighting systems, kitchens will be equipped with smokeless chullahs requiring half the amount of wood, with chimneys to divert the smoke outside. “Most of the ladies have eye and breathing problems,” said Kakkar. “It’s the women who are suffering.”

(Additional Reporting by Michelle Stockman)