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Meet the man behind solar-powered villages


Swati Vashistha, Sushil Kumar,CNN-IBN
Jun 01, 2010 at 01:44pm IST

Tiloniya, (Rajasthan): Semi-literate women installing a solar panel in a village with no electricity - they learnt how to do this at Tiloniya's Barefoot college - solar electrifying village after village in rural Rajasthan. The man behind this quiet revolution is Sanjit Bunker Roy and his conviction that solutions to most problems lie within the community.

Bunker says, "How they respect water, how they respect the air and how they respect the Sun. They don't abuse it, they don't misuse it. And the fact that the Barefoot College has given them the opportunity to show and bring to mainstream what they've been doing for hundred years…is what makes it important."

In the past 30 years, the Barefoot college has trained over 500 women across 16 states as Barefoot solar engineers. They have even gone beyond borders. Gita a Barefoot graduate, is teaching Monica who's come all the way from Tanzania how to fix a solar lamp. After a 6 month training Monica will go back and solar electrify her village.

It's an army of solar engineers like her here who've helped light over 600 villages not just in the Himalayas but across 32 countries so far.

"We first sensitize the community to the benefits of solar energy, let them contribute towards it, select a woman solar engineer…the benefits are…more time to earn, children can study at night and even less babies because people have more time to engage themselves in other activities," says Bunker.

At another village Jokhim Chacha tells people why solar is the way to go. As the sun sets, a solar lit night school comes alive. The class room is packed with children who work by day.

The Barefoot college runs entirely on solar energy, including photocopy machines and computers. Simple yet smart water-harvesting techniques are used to water the trees, in keeping with Bunker's green philosophy.

Bunker says, "You're using the sun, the fact that you're conserving rainwater, you're using traditional knowledge and skill to apply what may be 21st century technology into improving the quality of life for very poor people living at the cost of one dollar a day, is a very powerful message I think.

Bunker believes that the fight against global warming can only be won through a bottoms up approach. Lighting up lives in hundreds of villages across India with clean energy from the sun, Bunker Roy is clearly winning his green battle.

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