By: Amar Guriro | Published: March 27, 2011 Pakistan Today
KARACHI – When two of her daughters were married off two years ago, Noor Khatoon, a housewife, had barely managed to give her daughters a few handmade items, such as ralli (quilts), bed sheets, hair bands and pillows as dowry; however, she was able to joyously craft a large number of these items for her other two daughters’ wedding this time around, which was made possible with a huge electric bulb in her courtyard.
Noor Khatoon lives in a traditional hamlet, Goth Gul Hassan Shoro, located about 100 kilometres away from Karachi near Mirpur Sakro in the Thatta district, which has always been a target of natural disasters – tropical cyclone emerging from the Arabian Sea, floods from the Indus River, or desertification.
Due to the incessant disasters, poverty level has increased in the district, and worsened the situation in the absence of infrastructure, potable water, sanitation system, electricity, school, healthcare and other basic facilities.
After taking notice of the woes of the people living in several scattered villages of the district, the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE), in collaboration with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, recently started providing the villagers with solar energy panels under the Community Physical Infrastructure Initiative.
“We had been living without electricity since the establishment of Pakistan. In the absence of power, we have been cooking and sleeping early. However, ever since we got a bulb, I find sufficient time for sewing and stitching, not just for my daughters but for selling as well,” Noor Khatoon told Pakistan Today.
At a time when Pakistan is going through the worst-ever energy crisis due to increasing electricity demands and fuel prices and decreasing power generation, electrification of remote villages of Sindh is a dream come true for the villagers.
Under such circumstances, solar energy could be a great source of electricity in these areas, but the government seems less interested in introducing these power sources. To witness the positive changes in the lives of the underprivileged people living in the villages of the Thatta district after electrification, SCOPE arranged a trip for journalists from various cities of the country.
After a long drive from the National Highway and Keti Bunder Road, we turned left and drove for some four kilometres on a mud path and reached a village where high bulb poles were peeping out from the huts of the villagers. According to Sadabahar Village Development Organisation that has been working in the village since 2008, there are 45 households with 252 people.
“There are many snakes and other reptiles in the village, but since electricity bulbs have been installed, it is easy to spot the animals. Moreover, we can easily keep an eye on thieves, and the elderly can also take a stroll at night without any fear,” said Sadan, a resident of the village.
Another resident, Sabhagi, said that she had decorated her house after they started receiving electricity, so that her family’s guests could have a pleasant time in their courtyard at nights. “In the recent floods, we had temporarily migrated to a nearby mountainous area. When we returned to our village, we built out homes and decorated in the light of these bulbs. I don’t have words to express how much we have benefited from them,” she added.
Besides that, the women of the village could now find time for social gatherings in late evenings after these solar panels have been installed, which was not at all possible in the past. SCOPE’s Tanveer Arif said that his organisation has so far provided solar energy system to several villages in Maher union council of Ghora Bari taluka in the Thatta district. “We are currently planning to cover more villages,” he added.
Another SCOPE official, Mahjabeen Khan, said that providing electricity for meeting the lighting needs of households and rural markets could bring several positive impacts in the villages, including improvement of quality of life and increasing income and employment opportunities.
“Rural electrification through solar energy is a model of demonstration. The attraction of this model to the users is that they are free from the responsibility of maintaining the system,” she added. It is pertinent to mention here that if the Sindh Environment and Alternative Energy Department starts installing such alternative energy sources in the rural areas, it would provide great relief to the villagers, aid in improving social and economical conditions, and reduce the load of increasing energy demands.