Solar power lights the lives of rural poor in Bangladesh 

Friday, 25 May 2001: Until recently, poor families in Pouradubi could not afford fuel to light their homes. In this remote village in the Himalayan foothills in northern Bangladesh, work and household chores had to be finished, students’ homework completed and evening meals eaten before the sun went down.

But thanks to a UNDP-assisted project, there is now solar power in Pouradubi — even in the homeless shelters. This clean and renewable energy has enabled 60 extremely poor families to increase their income and improve their quality of life.

Now, on a typical evening, their children sit and study; other family members can be found making embroidering quilts or tailoring clothes; or attending cooperative group meetings or adult education classes; or gathering around the community television set watching programmes broadcast from the capital. The beneficiaries themselves operate and maintain the power system in a true transfer of technology.

The UNDP Sustainable Rural Energy Project extends to several off-grid rural growth centres in Bangladesh. In the remote village of Jhenidah in the western part of the country, there is now a centralized solar photovoltaic plant system with a capacity to produce 1.8 kilowatts of electricity — enough to power 45 shops, three small food-processing industries, a health centre and a mosque. Operation and maintenance of the plant has been entrusted to a local NGO, and the cost is met by charging each consumer about US$2 a month.

“By introducing solar energy in remote rural villages, UNDP has been able to bring dramatic changes in the lives of the ultra-poor,” says Jorgen Lissner, UNDP Resident Representative. “And this technology addresses local and global environmental concerns as well.”

For more information, please contact Shamim Hamid, UNDP Bangladesh, or Cherie Hart, UNDP Communications Office.