India's first solar village, Bacha, recently returned to the spotlight when the newly appointed Governor Mangubhai C. Patel visited the village, saw the solar powered devices and had lunch with a tribal family.
The village received the coveted award in 2019. There are a total of 74 households in the settlement and each house is equipped with solar panels. No household uses wood stoves or LPG bottles to cook food.
It was a joint venture between IIT Mumbai, ONGC and the volunteer organization Vidya Bharti that brought about a turning point in the remote village a few years ago. These institutions selected Bacha in 2017 to turn it into a solar village. Initially, the project developers installed solar panels on every house and soon the power shortage for the village was a thing of the past. Since then, the village has been completely supplied with solar energy.
During the recent visit to the village on August 3rd, Governor Mangubhai C. Patel said, “We all know that India's soul resides in the villages and Bacha is a prime example.”
Patel planted a sample at the local middle school and looked at the activities of the local women's support group. The women claimed they were making up to Rs 150-200 a month. He had lunch and enjoyed tribal delicacies at the residence of Anil Uike, one of the volunteers involved in the project. The governor spoke to the women about how they can benefit from induction stoves and solar power in their homes.
Locals claim that not only did solar power save them from power outages, but also that they no longer have to hunt for wood to cook food, and it has given locals a sense of protecting the environment.
The Ghodadongri Block settlement has 74 households and women do not wait for LPG bottles or electricity to cook food while they prepare food on solar cookers.
Vidya Bharti, an educational wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), took this initiative and asked IIT Bombay for technical assistance in converting Bacha into a solar village. At their request, the leading institution picked up some local young people and trained them with the technical know-how required for project maintenance so that it does not break in the future after the initial installation.
ONGC had partnered with IIT Bombay to offer the locals free gas stoves.
“There are places in India where solar panels are used sporadically for cooking, but a special solar cooker has been developed with the help of a team from IIT Mumbai. The villagers no longer cut trees to light their stoves. The central government's decision to choose Bacha has changed, setting an example that can be replicated to make other villages smoke and pollutant free, ”said social worker Nagar about the project.
Nagar, who is also a member of the NGO Bharat-Bharti Shiksha Samiti, spoke about the role of the IIT Mumbai team and also thanked the Union Minister for Petrol and Energy, Dharmendra Pradhan.
He said the project to install solar power panels, batteries and stoves in all 74 homes started in September 2017 and was completed by December 2018.
Harvind, a villager who benefited from the program, said they can now easily cook their food and it has also brought electricity to their homes.
“We can now prepare our meals within half an hour and that without the smoke tension. We no longer have to go into the jungle to pick twigs and branches for the wood-burning stoves, “said Harvind.
Jamuna Bai, a lady from the village, said it was a great development that changed the lives of children and women throughout the village.
“In the past, our eyes burned while we were cooking, because of all the smoke. Our children also had to be sent to the jungle instead of schools, but the situation has now changed. We have all the time to ourselves and the children can now study, “said Jamuna Bai.
The switch to solar energy has also helped protect the environment and illegal tree felling in the surrounding forests has decreased in the past two years, said Rajendra Kavde, Sarpanch village. Since we've stopped using wood and charcoal to cook food, the village looks a lot cleaner, Kavde said, adding that the name of the village has been relayed to New Delhi.
In addition to being self-sufficient with electricity, the village has also achieved independence in terms of water availability in the past.
The villagers use pipes to guide the water from hand pumps and from roofs underground. This ensured that the locals never had to deal with water shortages even in summer. Mithilesh Kavde, a local resident, said the village has 14 hand pumps and excess water that used to be wasted here is directed to septic tanks. While the household sewage is diverted to kitchen gardens, which also helps with the year-round cultivation of vegetables and fruits.
There are separate regulations for water supply for livestock and villagers who have built small dam-like structures on small rivers and nullah to ensure there is no shortage of water for agricultural purposes.
You can visit every corner of the village, it will look clean and tidy, said one of the volunteers Anil Uike, adding that locals make sure that no plastic or rubbish gets into a water source. This keeps the village and water sources going, he added.
Also, before this project, it was a parched landscape where locals walked for miles to fetch water. In the summer, the locals even have to migrate to other places when the village is hit by acute water shortages. However, modern systems such as dams, groundwater recharge and septic tanks have caused a complete turnaround in the region.
With these unique initiatives, the village has gained world fame and students and experts visit the village from far away. Students and management graduates from eight countries have visited the village in the past to see the modern self-sufficiency model.
(With inputs ANI)
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