For years, the families of Morabandar village lived in darkness. But the 28-odd houses there have now been illuminated with the help of solar powered LED lamps.
On Monday, Gauri Maine, 6, along with other residents, witnessed their village being lit up by the lamps. “Light aali,” said an excited Gauri.
Morabandar is on Elephanta Island, a 90-minute ferry ride away from the Gateway of India.
The village gets two-and-half hours of electricity daily from 7pm to 9:30pm from a Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation’s (MTDC) generator. “I am happy because I can study whenever I want now,” said Gauri, a Class 2 student.
“She takes one and half hours to walk down from her school to home,” said Shivangi, Gauri’s mother.
The island has only one school teaching up till Class 10. Gauri reaches home at 6:30pm and can start studying by 8pm, which according to villagers is a problem during examination.
Swati Chauhan, who has passed her Class 10 boards this year, said “It is difficult to pass our boards with just couple of hours of preparation.”
Now, with the new solar technology the villagers get five hours of standby lights to use.
Each house has been provided with four LED lights along with battery and solar panels. The project has come as a new year’s gift from the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), Science and Technology Park, Pune, and Solar Gem, an Australia-based firm that shares the expertise behind the technology.
At a cost of $70,000, it took a year to complete the project with Australian Government’s funds.
However, this is not the first time the village has been lit up. A similar project was introduced in the 1990s, which failed after three years. “After repeated requests in 2007 we got a generator from MTDC. We pay Rs 150 per house for the service,” said Rajendra Vharte, ex- sarpanch of the village.
Ratnakar Gaikwad, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, inaugurated the project. “It is a pilot project and we are not charging anything from the villagers. If the project is successful here, we will try it for other villages as well,” said Gaikwad.
This is the first phase and the second phase will be inclusive of solar and wind hybrid with which the villagers can use their heavy electronic gadgets.