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Saleem Samad

Solar irrigation pump a blessing for rural farmers

Bangladesh achieved remarkable success in expanding solar home system as it provides electricity in vast rural areas.

The World Bank is supporting the government's  effort to install 1,250 solar-powered irrigation pumps by 2018, according to sources.The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED) of the government  is piloting solar-powered irrigation solutions using a public-private partnership model.

Bangladesh Renewable Energy Policy (2008) envisages to meet 10 percent of total energy requirement by 2020.  Currently, Bangladesh spends around $900 million each year for a million tonnes of diesel fuel for irrigation. Scaling up solar-powered irrigation system  will save foreign currency  significantly.

The low-cost technology is well suited for the country's flat terrain and abundant sunshine. The implementing agency, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) channels grant and credit funding to the non-government organizations (NGOs) and private investors who install the solar pumps.According to experts, the solar system is more affordable and easier to install than traditional system. They do not have any movable parts, function without noise or pollution, and require little maintenance. The country will be able to reduce 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year once all the 1250 pumps are in operation. Currently, 40,000 rural families install solar home system every month on an average. Together with support from the World Bank and other development partners, more than a million systems have been installed in rural Bangladesh.

Keeping in mind that one-third of rural households in Bangladesh have access to electricity with about 16 million households are yet to be electrified.

Solar homes systems are most suitable for remote and dispersed communities where the grid connection is difficult or expensive to reach.

For rice cultivation, timely irrigation is vital - even missing one day can severely affect crop quality and yield. Majority farmers in villages depend on expensive diesel generators for irrigation. Accessing, these are challenges of peasants.

Farmers have to spend days in the local bazar to get pumps. On top of the rent, the farmers had to pay for the transportation and the diesel fuel. Often the diesel price hiked in the local market, and the peasants have to pay more than the government approved rate. The farmer had to transport the generator to the field and submerge himself in mud to make the diesel pump operational.

Moreover, the farmers had to stay at the field day and night to guard the pump, and to ensure the irrigation.With solar water pumps, the irrigation cost has dropped almost by half, to cheers of the farmers. But, the real benefit goes much deeper. Solar irrigations pumps are improving quality of life for the farmers in Bangladesh. The World Bank has been supporting the Bangladesh government to implement a market-based off-grid electrification program since 2002. The government owned financial institution, Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), has been implementing the solar home system component of the RERED project.In addition to the World Bank, the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF), Global Partnership on Output Based Aid (GPOBA), and US Agency for International Aid (USAID) has provided financing for the solar irrigation pumps.

 

Saleem Samad is an Ashoka Fellow (USA), independent journalist, media practitioner and micro-blogger.

 

Source: http://dailyasianage.com/news/15220/solar-irrigation-pump-a-blessing-for-rural-farmers