Lighting up lives

Rotarians and villagers standing under a newly installed solar street lamp.
Rotarians and villagers standing under a newly installed solar street lamp.

Ansu goes to the local taluk school and can now “come back home instead of staying at the Ashram,” that houses many other tribal students like her. Lack of electricity had left them with no choice but to stay away from their homes and complete their weekly lessons. “It was shocking to hear that near the bright and bustling city of Mumbai there are several villages that are in total darkness,” says Rtn Sachin Kulkarni, Chairman Renewable Energy, D 3140. Small oil lamps lit up the homes of these poor villagers.

Back in 2008, RC Bombay Hills South initiated the Dream Light Green Light project. With support from RC Detroit, D 6400 and TRF, the District provided solar electrification for 89 hamlets.  Seven years later 100 tribal hamlets in Jawahar, Wada, Mokhada, Talasari, Dahanu, Tansa and Shahapur have a solar panel connection and a battery that supports an LED light, a night lamp, mobile charger and a radio. Each family contributes Rs 70 annually towards maintenance and repair. “This stand-alone system is most apt as their homes are in the middle of forest areas that cannot have direct access to electricity,” he says.

The most interesting part of the whole project is that “although these people don’t have sufficient to eat, each family owns a cell phone, as their economy depends on daily wages and their earnings linked to the calls received,” says Kulkarni. Earlier, they had to walk 8–10 km to the nearby villages and pay Rs 10 to charge their phones. “If the battery went out, we had no work. There was no other way for the Malik to get in touch,” says Hariom, a daily wage worker from the village. Thank god for the “rashan pani jo sarkar dethi hai (ration provided by the government),” he says, adding that otherwise they would have to go to bed hungry.

With the new solar panel in place these villagers are now able to “get in touch with their employers regularly and charge our neighbours’ phones for a fee of Rs 10,” quips Hariom. The Rotarians estimate that approximately 400,000 litres of kerosene has been saved and the project has brought down carbon dioxide emission significantly.

The District is now keen on building toilets in these villages.

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