Solar power offers light and hope to Bangladesh villages

Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:13am EDT
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By Azad Majumder

PRITOMODDI, Bangladesh (Reuters Life!) - Straw fences and tin roofs: the homes in Pritomoddi village are typical of millions of others across rural Bangladesh, except for one thing: the shiny solar panels that provide electricity, all the time.

At the moment, only 40 per cent of Bangladesh's nearly 150 million people have access to electricity, often only for a few hours a day.

At some places, electricity does now show up for days, making lives difficult at home and disrupting industries and farming, where irrigation pumps stand idle.

The country's power system is almost entirely dependent on fast depleting fossil-fuel, with state-owned and private sector power plants only able to generate up to 3,800 megawatts of electricity a day against a demand of 5,500 megawatts.

All of this makes solar energy systems, offered to villagers heavily subsidized by the World Bank and via an installment scheme run by the state-owned Infrastructure and Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a big relief.

"Life has become much easier now," said Kulsum Begum, a mother of four whose husband and son work abroad and who lives in Pritomoddi, some 60 km (40 miles) southeast of the capital Dhaka.

Begum installed a 40-watt solar system on the roof of her house, which powers four bulbs, one television and also recharges her lifeline: her mobile phone.

"Whenever I need something, I call my husband or son on the cellcell phonephone. I am so happy now," she said.   Continued...