Boats outfitted with solar panels have become “floating classrooms” for children in the low-lying regions of Bangladesh, where floods have destroyed crops, schools, roads and infrastructure. They are among the more than 20 million people who became displaced last year due to climate change. In the past decade, Bangladesh has experienced 70 climate-related natural disasters. In its rural areas, 81% of people have no electricity, relying instead on kerosene hurricane lanterns.
But now, the social entrepreneur group Surya Hurricane: Electrification for the Landless, is helping retrofit lanterns with CFL (compact fluorescent) and LED lights, that can be recharged with excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. The new solar lighting is durable, mobile, alleviates the health problems caused by smoke from the traditional lanterns and reduces CO2 emissions. The lanterns are recharged using excess electricity generated by PV modules on the school boats. Local women, whose communities have been devastated by flooding, charge villagers $.07 USD for the service, generating a much needed additional source of income.
Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha who launched the innovative program, was one of 15 individuals honored today by The Tech Awards for applying technology to address the most critical issues facing our planet and its people.
Karen Turner, Director of USAID’s Office of Development Partners, spoke about the need to support innovators from emerging economies, connecting them to resources and markets. Turner described the new approach by the Obama administration which emphasizes openness and dialog to build networks, collaborate for the greater good and create transparent, participatory partnerships that empower people to share new ideas and incubate high-impact, low-cost solutions that benefit humanity. She referred to President Obama’s recent remarks that “the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by — it’s whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.”
Nobel Laureate and former Vice President Al Gore was also recognized for raising awareness about climate change. He received the 2009 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award given to individuals whose vision and leadership help to build a just, humane and sustainable world.