Solar Lamps in Rural India Offer Promising Solution

solar_lampsRoughly 25 percent of people in India do not have access to any electricity. For this reason, fossil fuels such as kerosene are often relied upon for lighting and other purposes. Kerosene lamps are expensive however and pose many threats to health and safety. Many dangerous particles are emitted when kerosene burns and prolonged exposure can cause multitudes of lung diseases such as tuberculosis, asthma and various cancers.

Known as indoor air pollution, these dangers are fully realized when paired with the fact that an estimated 1 in 3 Indian households use kerosene as their primary light source. Because women and children in India spend most of the time at home, they are the most at risk of exposure and adverse health conditions.

While full power grid integration would be the most desirable option for many villages, temporary solar energy units, such as solar lamps, can provide a steady and temporary solution to a monumental issue.

Ajaita Shah and her company “Frontier Markets” are working to help provide rural northwestern India with solar powered devices. Her inspiration for these efforts was the tragic experience of witnessing a young girl burning to death by a kerosene lamp.

Frontier Markets estimates that approximately half of their customers have absolutely no electrical access and the rest have only intermittent access. To date, Frontier Markets has sold over 85,000 solar energy products, and 225 retail outlets have been set up to offer after-sale service assistance.

Green Planet is another manufacturer of solar energy products and has distributed many of its units to Africa and Asia. There are multiple units that cost between US$11-40. The company started in 2009 and by 2012 had sold over 600,000 lamps in India. Depending on the model, lamps are between 4.5-6 inches in diameter and provide 24-30 hours of light on a full charge. There are plans to introduce models that double as phone chargers as well.

In India alone, the sales network has expanded from 600 in 2011 to more than 6,000 currently in five Indian states. The sales network is responsible for the sale of 40,000 lamps per month.

In regards to reaching even the most rural families, Radhika Thakkar, Vice President of global business development states, “Rather than selling our products through small retail shops that represent hundreds of products and lack the time to educate the consumer, our sales channel proactively gets the lamps into the hands of the families that need them.”

– The Borgen Project

Sources: National Geographic, Lights for Life, CNN, NIH, The Guardian
Photo: CNN