Greenpeace India receives unparalleled political praise in Bihar
04 August 2014
Former CM Nitish Kumar meeting with Executive Director of Greenpeace India, Samit Aich
Former CM of Bihar, and a prominent JDU member, Nitish Kumar meeting with Executive Director of Greenpeace India, Samit Aich in Dharnai, Jehanabad district, Bihar (c) Prashant Ravi
In 2012 Greenpeace India published a report called “e[r] cluster: for a smart energy access”, advocating a ‘bottom up’ grid expansion through cluster based development of renewable energy. They advocated a network of decentralised energy plants (stand alone and micro-grids), developed with support from the state government agencies in collaboration with the private entrepreneurs for a high impact and accelerated economic development of the state. Being one of the poorest and most energy deficient states, Bihar was the perfect example of energy inequity in the country and how DRE can change that by revolutionizing energy access.
Days after the report was launched by the Bihar’s then Energy Minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav, Greenpeace India met the then incumbent Chief Minister and to date Janata Dal (United) supremo, Nitish Kumar to discuss the report and its implications of Bihar’s energy situation with him. While the whole country is reeling from the Modi wave and it’s aftermath, it is important to remember that Nitish Kumar was once the sole nemesis of Modi and even less than a year back in the PM’s race or at the very least a kingmaker himself. He has made a name for himself as one of the best Chief Ministers in the country, creating growth and safety in Bihar, despite the obvious challenges offered up by a disadvantaged state. (To date 89% of Bihar’s population lives in rural areas, and almost 95% of these households have no electricity.) Upon meeting him, the CM asked Greenpeace India if they could demonstrate a successful decentralized project in Bihar.
Two years after Greenpeace India took up the challenge, a 100kW micro grid, is powering 450 households, of 2,400 people, 10 water pumps for irrigation – agriculture is the main livelihood occupation, 60 streetlights, schools, hospital buildings, shops etc.
Despite being close to cities like Patna and Gaya, and located just off the highway, Dharnai had been dark for 30 years.
Read more about Dharnai at http://dharnailive.org
Earlier this month, on August 4th, Nitish Kumar visited the village to witness first-hand the change in Dharnai. A keen politician, well aware of the importance of electricity in an energy starved state, he took care to explain to the people gathered the importance of renewable energy, and even spoke of a day when it would be the ONLY real source of energy. Beautifully he explained that the sun had great cultural and religious significance in this region. The festival of ‘chhat’ revolves around making offerings to the rising and setting Sun, and urged the local villagers to therefore look upon solar energy with the same respect. He also spoke of the need for awareness of the benefits of solar energy and also the drawback of coal like excessive and dangerous pollution. He also explained that there were still thousands of people in India to whom the grid would take long to reach and for them such initiatives were the only option.
Most wonderfully he gave Greenpeace credit for campaigning for climate change before it’s too late, and deeply praised their efforts to protect the environment.
It was clear from both the crowds he drew (3000 strong) and the intense security present, that Nitish Kumar remains very much a key player in Bihar, and a mover & shaker in the Center. In that, the endorsement and approval for this ground-breaking project from a stalwart leader, makes it all the more iconic.
Meanwhile, the Energy Secretary of Bihar and Director of BREDA (Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency), both of whom accompanied him, have started speaking to Greenpeace on scaling up the model and we hope to see this project scaled up in the near future.
As of now, Dharnai shines as a lighthouse for energy independence in rural India. On the eve of Independence Day, here’s hoping for more Dharnais!
Pujarini Sen is a renewable energy campaigner with Greenpeace India