Lighting a Million Lives to provide solar fans to villagers

By Shabbir Sarwar 

lighting-million-livesLAHORE: Creating a new micro-finance system to empower women with a unique blend of production of much-needed renewable energy to electrify over 50,000 power-deprived villages of Pakistan is the best ever innovation so far being implemented successfully by Bukhsh Foundation in various villages of Punjab.

Over 100,000 villagers are the direct beneficiaries of this project under which solar lanterns have been provided to around 50 houses each in 40 selected villages of Punjab where electricity was an imaginary thing for people, even in this modern era of second decade of the 21st century. Hence the project has achieved 10 percent of its target, 90 percent is left to reach the mark of lighting one million lives.

The project titled Lighting a Million Lives (LaML) has been implemented successfully in 10 villages of Sahiwal, besides achievements in Lodhran, Minawali, DG Khan, Dera Ismel Khan and other villages.

The cost of the project in one village is $5,500 (over Rs 50,000).

Besides lightening their house and proving these villagers the facility to continue their household work with an ease at night, mobile charging units have also been installed and sustainable employment opportunities have been created for over-40 needy women of these village. These women are now known as “roshna bibi” or “light lady” in the village. These chargeable lanterns remain active 6-8 hours depending on selection of light strength mode. Light charging system have been installed in the house of light ladies and this charging system is connected to the solar panels installed on the rooftops of their homes.

Each light lady charges Rs 4 to charge the lantern with the solar system every time and out of this amount she deposits Re 1 to a bank’s account for repair works, while the rest of Rs 3 is her earning. She earns around Rs 1,000 a day to support her family. Most needy women – mostly widows – have been selected to make them self reliant under this micro-credit project, launched with the help of various donors. The villagers have been provided lanterns free of cost.

Buksh Foundation, a concern of HKB Group, was established in 2009 with its two offices in Lahore – in Shahdara and Township – to provide soft loans of up to Rs 100,000. Later, Buksh Energy, a sister concern of the foundation, was also established, when CEO Faiza Farhan met with Indian Nobel laureate Dr Pachauri, who is also the director of Teri Technical Energy Resource Institute, at an energy summit in New Delhi.

India’s Teri institute was already working on this project and they had provided electricity to some 260-plus villages in the last few years.

Now, this model is also available in Uganda and Bangladesh.

With some innovations and local wisdom, Ms Faiza brought this project to Pakistan. Now, Teri is the technical partner of Buksh Energy. Out of total 40 villages, Coca-Cola provided funds for lightening of 15 villages in Sahiwal, Jahangir Tareen supported 14 villages in Lodran, USAID supported 15 villages in Bahawalpur and Imran Khan Foundation supported three villages – one each in Mianwali, DG Khan and Dera Ismael Khan. Engro Corp, Silk Banks, Bank Alfalah and UBL are some other donors.

The project’s three main objectives are: women empowerment in the rural areas of Pakistan by giving them an opportunity to use the solar charging station as a means to generate income; sustainable energy alternate to illuminate households and help them escape long hours of power shutdowns by proving them solar lanterns; and international relationships through creating global linkages and joining hands with international firms to help strengthen the clean energy movement in Pakistan.

Buksh Foundation Chairman Asim Buksh who was awarded the title ‘Hero of the Environment’ by the Times Magazine for his clean energy initiative in Pakistan, while talking to Daily Times said they have a vision to contribute 500 megawatts of renewable energy to the country by the year 2020, adding 10 percent share to the total national renewable power generation.

“We are light to those people who, under the given circumstances, would be unable to get grid stations even during the next 20 years. We have a plan to improve our system and also provide solar fans and charging systems to deprived villagers of Pakistan.”

Asked when they are going to enhance their system and provide fans to the villagers, Asim said they could apply this model to any selected village during the next three months. He said it was the foundations’ aim to provide economic platform to Pakistanis to support the economic activity.

“Ultimately, we will have a broad micro impact, which would one day result into a macro economic impact,” Buksh remarked.

Anam Elahi, foundation’s assistant business development manager, said lanterns and all technical equipment were imported from India after review of quality in other countries. “We are importing from Gautam Polymers, which is our manufacturers and supplier in India.” She said one of the key problems the villagers were facing was charging mobiles. “They have to travel to city to or some far-away shops to get their mobile phones charge at a cost of Rs 5 to Rs 10 for each charge. Now, they have this facility at their village in the house of the light lady.” She said that more than 40 villages were in the pipeline where they were working to provide solar lanterns.

Courtesy: Daily Times

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