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NRI wins UN green prize

A portable light that can be recharged by pedaling for 20 minutes and was developed for use in areas not wired for electricity, has won a Canadian of Indian origin the prestigious Sasakawa Prize of the United Nations Environment Programme, reports Anirudh Bhattacharyya.

world Updated: Feb 25, 2010 01:13 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

A portable light that can be recharged by pedaling for 20 minutes and was developed for use in areas not wired for electricity, has won a Canadian of Indian origin the prestigious Sasakawa Prize of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The device has been developed by Nuru Design (Nuru means light in Swahili), headed by social entrepreneur Sameer Hajee, a Canadian national with roots in India and Kenya.

Speaking from Bali where he received the award, Hajee said a pilot project was already in place in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa and he expected the units to be rolled out by this summer with 300,000 units in place by the end of the year.

The device, called the Nuru light, is essentially a lighting system that can be recharged by a pedal generator — the Nuru POWERCycle.

According to the UNEP statement announcing the award, “gentle pedaling for 20 minutes using feet or hands, bicycle-style, can fully recharge up to five Nuru lights... The lights give up to two weeks of bright light on a full recharge.”

The system has been field tested in the African nation of Rwanda. Nuru Design will use the Sasakawa Prize money to replicate the success of the lighting system in India by the end of this year and also in the African countries of Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.

“India is one of our biggest markets and one of the areas with the greatest need,” the Toronto-based Hajee said. He said that he had “an affinity” with India because of his “own heritage”, as he did with Kenya.

Nuru Light’s objective is “to replace the use of expensive, polluting, unhealthy, and dangerous kerosene as a source of lighting for the two billion people without access to electricity.”

Of those, nearly 580 million are in India.

Hajee said a modified marketing model will be used for India, with units initially being rolled out in areas with erratic power supply, before rural franchisees take it to villages that are off the grid. The cycle will cost about Rs 7,500 while each portable-on-demand or POD light will cost about Rs 250.

UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “This is the Green Economy of tomorrow, in action today.”

The other winner of the prize for 2009-10 was the non-profit Trees, Water and People.