By Nudge Sustainability Reporter Alina Husain
As the sun sets, Shama Bibi switches on her solar lantern and starts sewing clothes for the upcoming festival of Eid. Not long ago, she used to sit idle as soon as darkness sets in. She and other residents of her village outside Bahawalpur, now also remain busy in their activities after sunset. This might not sound like a big deal to someone living in a developed country. But in the far off villages of Pakistan, however, where people barely have access to electricity, these solar lanterns are truly a blessing.
The solar lantern initiative, Lighting a Million Lives, was started by a Pakistani nonprofit organization, Baksh Foundation. As a part of this project, rural women are taught how to operate and maintain solar charging stations at their homes. Two Light Ladies are trained and are given 50 lanterns, which they rent to other villagers at only $0.04 per day! It initially costs $5500 to install the solar charging station and buy the set of lanterns, which is covered by kind donations.
In Pakistan the energy crisis is severe and according to the World Bank, 44% of the households are not connected to the electricity grid and more than 80% of these are in rural areas. In view of this massive energy crisis, Baksh Foundation is doing its best to reach people who are deprived of the basic necessities of the 21st century, and is achieving its goals sustainably. Solar charging stations have been installed in 150 off grid villages so far, and the foundation aims to reach 4000 villages by 2017!
Kerosene oil is currently the primary source of lighting in households which are not connected to the national grid. One solar lantern replaces 500 to 600 liters of kerosene during its 10 year lifespan. This means lesser Carbon Dioxide emissions. Bravo!
Lighting a Million Lives not only provide the rural population with just electricity, but with sustainable electricity. This project is truly an inspiration for all change agents who wish to provide energy to the rural population in the most environment friendly manner. All power deficit nations must surely follow in the footsteps.
For more information on what is like living off grid, how helpful solar energy can be, and just how harmful kerosene lamps are for the environment and health, have a look at the Nudge Explores Solar Energy 2015 project.