Change gives solar lights amongst Khashia students

Neebiir Kamaal
Clockwise: Two students study using solar light; Gidison Pradhan Shuchiang, left, Sajid Iqbal, centre, Sarika Iqbal, right, present a solar light to a school girl; students of Double Chara Punji School with solar lights.

Clockwise: Two students study using solar light; Gidison Pradhan Shuchiang, left, Sajid Iqbal, centre, Sarika Iqbal, right, present a solar light to a school girl; students of Double Chara Punji School with solar lights.

At a time when the frenzy over a glittery digitalised society has reached fever pitch, it indeed comes as a hard reality check that over half the population of Bangladesh don’t even have access to electricity yet. Let alone computers, smart phones or other sophisticated gadgets. The city centric patterns of developmental work in Bangladesh have left the major parts of the country lagging still far behind.
Change, a research and consultation firm founded in 2012 by Sajid Iqbal, a student of Environmental Science of North South University, has been working to promote the use of solar energy in various parts of the country. In 2012, Change had played an instrumental role in popularising the Litre of Light movement in Bangladesh. Litre of Light is a global movement that aims to use a plastic bottle to light up the interior of rooms using solar energy.
On September 27, with a view to go ahead with its plans of reducing energy shortage, Change distributed Solar Bati, a lighting system empowered with solar energy, amongst school children of Khasia community at Double Chara in Sylhet. After researching and toiling hard at a workshop for more than six months, Sajid Iqbal and Asaduzzaman Noor, the technician working for Change had developed the design and the first unit of Solar Bati.
‘We had been working on developing a system of solar light that would have a low production cost. The Chinese ones that you get in the market cost more and don’t last that long. I used to scout the local market with Noor for different materials that can be used in assembling the light. Then finally we made a steel frame and could come up with a device that is portable and can provide light for about seven to eight hours with saved solar energy’, elaborated an elated Sajid.
Change distributed 32 units of Solar Bati amongst the students of Double Chara Punji School at Double Chara, an area that is heavily populated by people of Khasia community.
‘Double Chara is a remote area that is one and a half hours away from the Lawa Chara forest. The people of the Khasia tribe living there have no access to electricity’, said Sajid.
Perfetti Van Melle, an Italian company, came forward to fund the entire cost of making the 32 units of Solar Bati. Sajid conveyed that the cost of making each unit of Solar Bati was 3500 taka, whereas the cheapest solar light systems that are available in the market cost from 12000-16000 taka.
The 32 lights that Change distributed at Double Chara were given to the best four students from each class of the school at the end of a seminar titled Solar Light Distribution Project at the school premises. Sajid Iqbal along with Sarika Iqbal, ambassador of Change and also a participant of Lux Channel I Superstar 2014; Gidison Pradhan Shuchiang, the leader of the Khasia tribe in the area known as ‘Khasia Myntri’; Ehtesham Uddin Ahmed, group product manager, PVM were present at the event. At the seminar, Sajid Iqbal demonstrated the knowhow of using the solar lights to the students.
‘Along with the students, their family members can now also use the solar lights. Besides, the students of the Khasia community will be motivated to study harder,’ said Sarika Iqbal.
Sarika also informed that without the help of Khasia leader Gidison Pradhan Shuchiang it would not have been possible to distribute the lights. Sajid Iqbal, on the other hand added that Shuchiang was so hopeful about the prospect of the solar lights that he urged Change to produce more of these solar lights so that others of the Khasia tribe in Sylhet can get them at affordable prices. Sajid also informed that his next target is to take the next batch of these lights to the Garo community in Mymensingh.
‘Change wants to provide these lights to different areas where electricity still has not reached. But for the time being, different tribes are our priority as they are amongst the most neglected communities of the country’, Sajid elaborated.
The efforts of the young masterminds of Change can not only inspire others to step up in bettering conditions related to the difficult energy problem of the country, but also truly bring change in the lives of many, right now.

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