Listening to Dipal Chandra Barua might cause astonishment every time one hears him talk about his work and his vision: He wants Bangladesh to be the world’s first “solar nation”!
This might sound like daydreaming at first, but if you have a closer look at the work of Dipal Barua, laureate of the Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”), there is reason to be optimistic. At the conference “Teaching Right Livelihood” in Kassel in May, I had the privilege to meet him and could participate in a workshop in which he presented his work and afterwards discussed his actions and vision with the audience.
One notices quickly that Dipal Chandra Barua not only complains about worldwide problems and wrongdoing, but is active himself. He gets down to the root of a problem and offers long-term solutions. Dipal Chandra Barua has already visited thousands of villages in Bangladesh and has gotten an idea of the situation. Often people living in these rural areas of Bangladesh had to get along without any connection to the electricity grid (in 1996 this was so for about 85 percent of the population). That is why they spent the time after sunset in absolute darkness. Their light source mainly consisted of kerosene-fueled lamps.
After the non-profit organization Grameen Shakti was established in 1996 the situation changed quickly in those rural areas. That is due to Dipal Chandra Barua’s model for implementing sustainable light and energy – both of which provides a win-win situation: On the one hand the rural population of Bangladesh gets the chance to raise its standard of living by installing its own solar home systems (SHS), on the other hand and at the same time they support the expansion of renewable, climate-friendly energy sources. A financial mechanism helps to reduce the cost of the installation of an SHS to the monthly cost of kerosene. The model is successful: Up to now about 3 million solar home systems have been installed in rural areas of Bangladesh. It is also remarkable that Dipal Chandra Barua with his Green Technology Center (GTC) explicitly supports and encourages women to complete a technical training. He does so with great success! Many women work as “green entrepreneurs” in the growing market of renewable energies. This causes, in addition to the environmental benefits, a change in the reputation of women in the Bangladeshi society, in which the majority of the people belongs to the Muslim religious community.
Dipal Barua demonstrates how the expansion of renewable energies in developing countries can become a success: it takes a decentralized supply with renewable energy and additional value for health, education, and productivity. Now it remains to be seen whether Dipal Chandra Barua’s vision comes true a 100 percent, which would mean that 75 million people in Bangladesh benefit from the use of renewable energy.