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     Volume 1 Issue 3 | August 5, 2006 |


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From Patuakhali
Solar Energy Changes Village Life

Md. Sohrab Hossain

At the remote Badura village in Patuakhali where government is yet to supply electricity, a school student, Arif, was reading under a fluorescent light while others in the family were enjoying TV programmes in another room. They, like many others, have changed their lifestyle by using solar energy.

“This is a great encouragement to my children”, Arif's mother Jesmine Begum told this writer during a recent visit to Badura by the latter.

Use of solar energy and electricity run battery is gaining popularity among the rural people in Galachipa and Sadar upazilas of the district. Thanks to the innovating efforts by two local NGOs. Neither the PDB (Power Development Board) nor the REB (Rural Electrification Board) has supplied electricity to the remote villages there. The efforts of the two NG
Os in this regard have also created jobs for many villages women, who work in the small plants assembling solar energy and electric battery sets. The sets are also supplied to neibouring districts, opening up a good business prospect.

The Coastal Electrification and Women's Development Co-Operative (CEWDC) and The Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES) have installed solar energy electricity system in about 200 houses and battery system electricity in about 2000 since they took the initiative in 1999. More rural people in Char Montaz, Rangabali and Char Biswas unions under Galachipa Upazila now want these facilities.

The Energy Sector Management Assistance Programmes (ESMAP), the World Bank and other donors extended their helping hand in the work. Prokaushali Sangsad Limited of Dhaka is giving technical support.

The most distinctive feature of the project is that all the activities are managed and supervised by 35 women who have little formal education. At the Char Montaz, where the CEWDC office is situated, a small factory has been set up where solar and battery sets are assembled and recharged. The required equipment is imported.

Mohiuddin, field manager of the project, said, “Solar unit costs Tk. 17,801 to Tk. 26,398. A solar unit can run six lights and a TV set. An 8-volt battery costs Tk 1850 and a 12-volt battery costs Tk 3280. A battery has five years guarantee with monthly recharge facilities and backup support by the providers.”

“Our products are supplied to different areas of the country including Jhenidha,Satkhira and Bhola”, said Rashed,the production manager of the project. The meritorious but poor students are getting light facilities free of cost, he added.

Zakia, Bimola, Lina and Shahida, all members of CEWDC, said a worker earns Tk 1500 to Tk 2000 per month from the project. They deposit a part of their income to the organization's fund as savings.

Solar energy user Kobita Amin of Char Montaz village said she bought her solar battery at Tk 2,000. Her school- going son, Rajib, and two minor daughters are very happy as they can now read in fluorescent lights and can enjoy TV programmes, too, even though there is no electricity in the area.

Anisuzzaman, the unit manager of CMES said, “We have supplied 20 solar sets in the Sadar upazila and Uzirpur upazila in Barisal district.”

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