By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 16: Almost a decade has passed since the Central and the
State governments announced their plans to tap the enormous potential of
solar energy in Andhra Pradesh. In the last 10 years there have been several
reworks on the proposal and finally the Centre has decided to select
Visakhapatnam as a solar hub to reduce dependence on conventional energy
by at least 10 per cent.
The Union Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy and the Prime Minister's
Office have, however, set their eyes on the long-term energy needs. They
want to generate 20,000 mw of solar energy by 2020 with Andhra Pradesh
contributing at least five per cent of the targetted generation of electricity
But a group of tribals, illiterate, malnourished and poverty-ridden, has
decided that they cannot wait for another decade to enjoy the fruits of
electricity. By any modest estimate, it will take at least four to five years for
the proposed solar hub at Visakhapatnam to become a reality. The solar hub,
even when it becomes a reality, may not serve the villagers and tribals living
far away from the urban agglomerate of Visakhapatnam.
"Villages and tribal hamlets occupy the bottom in the priority list of the
government. We depend on kerosene to light up our houses and fetching
kerosene through PDS is nothing short of a Herculean task, particularly for
people living in inaccessible areas. We decided that we should light up our
homes using the solar energy," says Pongi Ramanamma, a resident of
Thammingala, a remote village in Chintapalli agency area of Visakhapatnam
district, as she tunes to DD news on her black and white TV set.
The tribals of Visakhapatnam have shown the way for officials and
politicians, who rack their brains to find solutions to global warming and
climate change. Apart from two bulbs a house, many households have
television sets with set-top box operated through solar energy. The State
government erected electric poles way back in 1991 and 18 years on, they are
yet to be energised. It will take the lethargic officials five more years to
provide conventional electricity city supply through overhead power lines
"We are very happy that at least our children are fortunate to have the power
facility, which will bring happiness in their lives. We spent all our lives in
darkness. What more can we give to our descendants" said Yerramma, a 60-
year-old tribal woman.
People in Thammingala, which does not figure in the local mandal maps
because of its tiny nature, are overwhelmed about the change from flickering
kerosene lamps to solar cfl bulbs and battery-operated radio sets to solar-
power TVs. "We have never imagined that we would be able to
see moving pictures on the small box. We do not know what an electric bulb
is till three months ago," says Pothu Rajubabu.
The transformation came in the Agency belt, not because of the initiative of
the State or the Central governments, but thanks to the Barefoot Solar
Women Engineers' Association. The Association was the brainchild of four
illiterate women, who underwent specialised training in solar energy
Taking a cue from their counterparts in Thammingala, the villagers of
Pusalapalem too installed solar home light system units. These two villages
sit on the picturesque Eastern Ghats, about 180 km from Visakhapatnam. The
nearest motorable road is about 15 km away.
According to Dr G Valentina, an assistant professor with the Rural
Technology Park, Hyderabad, "this is just the first phase. We will take up the
second phase soon. Women will be trained in setting up one KW solar
power plant, which will energise 15 streetlights and two community TV
Almost all the households in Thammingala and Pusalapalem enjoy the benefits of solar energy. There are no powercuts, no blackouts or outages. The hilly terrain with abundant solar energy is an added advantage for these villages.
"We were given just three litres of kerosene a month through the PDS. We
used to buy another three litres in black by paying thrice the PDS price,
pushing our expenditure on kerosene by Rs 200 a month. The solar energy
now comes almost free. There's no smoke and no pungent smell of kerosene,"
recalls Yerra Chinnamma.
The solar lamps were a boon for tribal students who recently appeared for
class 10 common examination. They could study during the night hours too.
"This time my child worked hard. He was academically brilliant but could
not study well as we had to depend on the kerosene lamps. This year he could
work hard and write his exams better," said Jartha Rajullamma.
A solar home light unit costs about Rs 13,500. Each of the households paid
Rs 1000 towards advance deposit to a local bank, which funded the project.
As against Rs 200 spent on kerosene a month, each family now pays Rs 100
to the bank towards EMI. These villages have village environment
committees to look after the maintenance part.
Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge
Word of the Day
|Definition:||Equipment, such as clothing, tools, or instruments, used for a specific purpose or task.|
Quote of the Day
Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.