Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) solutions continue to prove their utility in more than just the energy sector. Over the last few years DRE technologies have played an important role in helping people access better development facilities, including healthcare and education. Ecoideaz and CLEAN, a network of DRE enterprises, bring you stories of champions who are working on the ground and changing people’s perception positively around DRE. Envo Renewable Energy Services Private Limited (ERES) is one such champion member of CLEAN.
Morigaon Mahila Mehfil (MMM) was established as an NGO in 1979 in Morigaon, Assam. The group was formed with an aim to improve the civil society’s functioning, facilitate better services and facilities for the local inhabitants, among other things. Since its inception, the voluntary organisation has conducted numerous social welfare activities across various sectors such as women and child development, education, health, disaster management and livelihoods.
The Northeast region of India, specifically the state of Assam is susceptible to severe floods during the monsoon season. For the past many decades, floods have wreaked havoc in several districts of the state, bringing lives to a standstill. Morigaon has been among the worst-hit districts. Last year during monsoons, water inundated several villages of Morigaon resulting in loss of human life, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock, infrastructure facilities and deterioration of health conditions.
People in Morigaon were losing hope since the conventional power sources were damaged by the floods. Realising the urgency, CLEAN Member, Envo Renewable Energy Services with support from SELCO Foundation along with MMM took up the task of setting up Integrated Energy Centres (IECs) – solar-powered charging facilities for portable lights and mobile phones. They also solarised a rescue boat to provide immediate 24X7 rescue assistance to people as well as for its longterm usage during times of similar crises. Since the boat was solar-powered, the collaborative rescue efforts were extended during nights as well.
“During rescue operations, our boatman reached out to the marooned people without a break during the day. However, often his phone ran out of charge and he was unable to connect with us during such emergency situations. We also could not rescue people at night. After ERES intervened, the solar-powered boat has become our primary rescue medium 24 hours a day. Subsequently, the number of people rescued as compared to previous times has gone up considerably”, stated Wahida Rehman, Secretary, MMM.
The boat proved invaluable in negotiating strong floodwater undercurrents and whirlpools, which earlier had limited the rescue operation at night. Solarising the boat, with two portlights in front of the boat, one focus light, two tube lights inside the boat, two stern lights at the back and a five-channel mobile charging station, delighted the local people including the rescue team as it now made the rescue efforts incredibly effective.
The immediate concern for the ERES team was to provide people with electricity that could have taken months to restore as compared to providing food and water, which could be supplied easily. To help people affected by the calamity, four centers were marked out at different locations of Laharighat Block to set up IECs with the help of volunteers from different villages of Morigaon.
Despite facing numerous hurdles such as harsh weather and tough terrain, the ERES and MMM teams were able to complete the installation work in every center within the scheduled time, thereby providing respite to 120 households. Soon after, 4 IECs at different locations of Morigaon became income generation options to the families where people came to charge their mobile phones and chargeable lights. The caretakers charged a nominal fee of INR10 per night for charging a single device, from which, a small percentage was given to MMM for system maintenance.
Because of the IECs, children were now able to access light till late evening for uninterrupted study. Moreover, people used night hours in a more productive manner. The gloominess among residents was taken away by the consistent light source. Caretakers at these IECs also got a stable source of income.
“Our aim is to bridge the energy access gap by bringing in DRE intervention in basic lighting, livelihoods, health & education for the underserved communities of the North East region. Initiatives like IECs, solarised boats and other DRE powered products will work as enablers in poverty alleviation and also increase opportunities for improved livelihood, health, education services and so on in the region,” shares Fazle Illahi, Managing Director, Envo Renewable Energy Services Private Limited.