India: ban the bulb, save the climate

Feature story - 8 August, 2007
Over the past two weeks, our India office has been ramping up their climate change campaign with a series of protests set to the backdrop of massive flooding across South Asia.

Activists in chains and armlocks blockade the gates of the Surya Light bulb manufacturing unit in Kashipur, Uttaranchal - to call for a shift in production from incandescent lightbulbs to energy saving CFLs.

In India, 20 million people are said to be affected by the recent floods, along with another 8 million in Bangladesh and 300,000 in Nepal.  Increased flooding and drought from climate change will also hurt agricultural production, especially among subsistence farmers.

"India could lose 125 million tons of its rain fed cereal production -- equivalent to 18 percent of its total production," UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jacques Diouf said yesterday.   

Palace protest

July 29th - Activists protested outside one of India's historical landmarks, the Mysore palace.  At night this building is brilliantly lit - with approximately 96,000 (energy wasting) lightbulbs in total.  We took thermographic photos showing the heat wasted by these massively inefficient bulbs, which waste more than 90 percent of their energy as heat.  

Changing the palace over to Compact Florescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) would save  and 47 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Warning in Mumbai

August 1st - It is the financial capital of India, home to an estimated 18 million people, and much of it is at sea level.  To highlight the danger, we put a 20-metre (66ft) life ring in the harbour.

"The predicted rise in sea level of 50 centimetres together with storms and frequent floods would render most of Mumbai's low-lying areas uninhabitable," said Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Vinuta Gopal. " This is reality, not scare-mongering."

Blockading a lightbulb manufacture

Yesterday - Almost 100 activists blockaded the entrance to one of the country's leading lightbulb manufactures - preventing shipments of lightbulbs from leaving the factory.  Some of the activists passed out in temperatures over 35 degrees celsius (95F), but were revived with water and continued their protest.

We're out to ban energy wasting lightbulbs by 2010, and want this company to shift its production to CFLs.  

Every step 

It may seem like a small stand against such a global problem, but if these activists win the effect will be profound.  There are millions of lightbulbs in India.  Twenty percent of the country's electricity consumption is for lighting.

If all of India's energy wasting incandescent light bulbs were replaced by CFLs it would save at least 12,000 MW of electricity and over 55 Million tonnes of CO2 per year.

That's not a small step; it's a big one.  


At 9:15pm last night, the activists ended their protest after securing a written promise that the chairman of the company will meet with us to discuss the issue within 60 days.  Over the past four months the company had repeatedly refused our offers to talk.

Ban the bulb petition

It is said that sometimes even small actions can have big consequences. Sign Greenpeace India's ban the bulb petition. Support from all over the world is welcome.

7 steps forward

Help outlaw energy wasting lightbulbs where you live. Take your own small step today.