KHUZDAR: In various districts of the Balochistan, millions of residents have long endured the reliance on kerosene oil, candles, wood and other traditional fuels for their daily energy needs. The consequences of this outdated practice are not only economically burdensome but also pose serious threats to the climate and environment and the well-being of the community. With homes lacking proper lighting, schools devoid of electricity, and basic health centers struggling to provide essential services, the need for an alternative energy solution has become critical.
Recognizing the pressing issues faced by the people of Balochistan, the Health And Rural Development (HARD) Balochistan has been at the forefront of addressing these challenges. In a groundbreaking initiative, the organization successfully secured a project grant from the EKOenergy Ecolabel – Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in 2023. The primary objective was to provide sustainable and cost-effective energy solutions to the most deserving and impoverished communities across 5 hard-to-reach villages in Tehsil Aranji District Khuzdar Balochistan, Pakistan.
Commencing on July 1, 2023, with the generous support of the EKOenergy Ecolabel, the HARD Balochistan embarked on a transformative journey to electrify 100 households in the targeted villages. The project extended beyond mere residential electrification, encompassing the electrification of religious places and essential community facilities such as schools and health centers. The initiative aimed not only to provide electricity but to empower the community by creating awareness about climate change and promoting the and adoption and benefits of solar energy.
The project achieved remarkable success, covering all four villages and benefiting approximately 4,000 individuals in the targeted and surrounding areas. A total of 100 households, five schools, and five Basic Health Units/Centers were equipped with top-of-the-line solar energy systems. The impact was not confined to basic electrification; it extended to training 25 local youths for one month in installation, repair, and maintenance, equipping them with tool kits to start their small businesses or pursue self-employment in the area. Moreover, a one-day training session was conducted under the HARD Technical Training Centre for 110 household men and women on the repair, maintenance, and day-to-day operation of solar energy systems.
The holistic approach taken by the HARD Balochistan also led to the establishment of village-level EKOenergy Climate Management Committees, ensuring the sustainability of the project through community-driven efforts. The committees actively engaged through the project implementation and in raising awareness about climate change mitigation and solar energy benefits, fostering a sense of ownership among the residents.
The positive outcomes of the project are tangible and far-reaching. Women, in particular, have experienced a transformative change in their daily lives. With access to electricity, they can engage in income-generating activities such as embroidery and tailoring after sunset, contributing to their families’ financial well-being. Children now enjoy a safer and healthier study environment, with improved access to education and reduced health risks. Furthermore, it enhances healthcare by enabling Basic Health Units/Centers to operate effectively at night, leading to a decrease in emergency cases, especially during deliveries. The project offers extensive benefits beyond the highlighted advantages. Primarily, it plays a crucial role in reducing indoor air pollution, mitigating respiratory diseases by replacing traditional fuel sources with clean solar energy. This improvement in respiratory health extends to a reduction in chronic illnesses linked to prolonged exposure to indoor pollutants. The solar lighting acts as a deterrent against hazards like snakes and thieves, ensuring increased safety and peace of mind. Additionally, the project fosters community cohesion by providing reliable electricity for social activities after dark, thereby enhancing overall well-being.
The impact on the socio-economic well-being and quality of life of the communities cannot be overstated. The HARD Balochistan’s initiative, supported by the EKOenergy Ecolabel, has garnered widespread appreciation from stakeholders and beneficiaries alike. Requests for similar programs are flooding in from other rural areas, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable and community-driven energy solutions.
Published in The Balochistan Point on November 29, 2023