Monday, 17 August 2009

Solar energy: Illiterate tribal women show the way to fight climate change

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Aug 16: Even as the Central government is still in the "planning
stage" to energise Visakhapatnam district through solar power, four tribal
women have proved that a strong will power could translate dreams into

They have brought electricity, though solar, to two inaccessible
villages deep in the Chintapalli forests in Visakhapatnam district, within a
span of six months. For information of readers, the State government erected
poles 18 years ago (1991 to be precise) to supply electricity to the hamlets of
Thammingala and Pusalapalem. The electric poles have rusted and the
villages are yet to be energised.

The Women Barefoot Solar Engineers' Association, manned by illiterate
women, did the wonders. After being identified by the Rural Technology
Park of National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, for training, the
illiterate women embarked on the solar mission to light up tribal hamlets. The
Association in turn trained four tribal women, Papayyamma, Pravallika,
Santoshamma and Kumari of Visakhapatnam district.

"We know the technology that goes into making of solar lamps. We also
repair the solar panels and batteries," says Papayamma. These units, however,
require little maintenance except filling up the battery unit with distilled
water at frequent intervals.

Rural Technology Park project director Dr Senthil Vinayakam points out that
these illiterate women had grasped the techniques after much efforts. They
were trained using colour coding, and often sign language. They know how
to assemble solar lanterns.

These women also make water pumps that run on solar energy.

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