Let’s debunk the myth that global sustainability comes at the price of development. Dharnai is a solar-powered village that gives us hope for a future that’s both ecologically sustainable and thriving.
On a global level renewable energy is winning the race against fossil fuels as more clean-power capacity is being installed than coal, oil and gas together. Solar power is growing faster than even we at Greenpeace predicted, and renewables are now the cheapest way to provide more electricity in an ever-growing number of countries.
Dharnai, a solar-powered village in India, shows how we can make the renewables boom deliver for all — including the rural poor. Dharnai is located in Bihar, one of the poorest provinces in India. It did not have access to electricity for 30 years before a solar mini-grid was installed with the support of Greenpeace India in July last year.
The village faces extreme poverty, deep caste divisions and very high illiteracy rates. But life in Dharnai has been transformed in the last 10 months since an affordable solar-energy grid arrived. Dharnai is the first village in India where all aspects of life are powered by solar. The 100-kilowatt (kW) system powers the 450 homes of the 2,400 residents, 50 commercial operations, two schools, a training center and a health-care facility. A battery backup ensures power is available around the clock.
Solar-powered lighting means children can now go out and play after school and finish their homework after sunset. Women feel safer venturing out after dark and families at home do not have to spend time in darkness. The arrival of solar-powered water pumps has brought new hope to many farmers in improving access to fresh-water resources. With solar energy, more villagers have been able to recharge their mobile phones regularly, and so the solar grid has also opened up Dharnai to the world of the Internet.
This is just the beginning. Improvements in the quality of life of Dharnai’s residentshave become the talk of neighboring villages that are eager to understand and replicate the Dharnai model. India has 80,000 other villages that also need solar micro-grids.
That is why it is so important that Greenpeace India continues to work for a better life for India’s citizens and to help deliver clean, reliable electricity for all. Dharnai shows what real development — development that doesn’t cost the Earth — looks like. It is this kind of sustainable development that Greenpeace India stands for. And it shows the absurdity of recent suggestions that Greenpeace in India is acting against India’s national interest.