We Are Renewable Energy, Too

Jun 16 2006

Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Jun 16 (IPS) – Some of us could have been standing on a solution to that search for renewable energy all along.

That simple discovery won the International Development Enterprises India a ‘Green Oscar’ at the Ashden Awards ceremony in London Thursday night. The awards are given out every year to innovators searching out new sources for renewable energy.

The Indian firm won the 30,000 pounds (55,000 dollars) award for developing foot-operated treadle pumps that use human power to pump water out of the ground. Half a million such pumps have been sold. The result is that farmers can simply use pedal power and body weight to beat the monsoons, because they can use the pumps to draw water all year round.

The judging panel declared that the group had succeeded in “commercialising a simple, sustainable technology which helps poor farmers achieve massive improvements in yield and income.”

Among other benefits, these pumps stop farmers migrating to the cities for work, allowing them to stay on the land all year round.

“It was a remarkable development in using human power as an energy source,” Jo Walton from the Ashden awards group told IPS.

Another of the ‘Green Oscars’ went to the Appropriate Technology Institute (ARTI) of India for “its revolutionary application of biogas technology to an urban environment, transforming food waste into clean household cooking fuel.” The institute has designed an innovative compact biogas system suited to urban households that uses food waste and other sugary, starchy substances rather than dung to produce gas for cooking.

“There is a lot of buzz around this innovation,” Walton said. “This can be such a readily usable solution to energy needs in cities, and it gets rid of food waste at the same time.”

Dung does remain an energy source, though. The Shaanxi Mothers from China won a second prize for promoting and installing around 1,300 biogas plants across the Shaanxi province, that use pig dung mixed with human waste to produce gas for cooking. The group was awarded for “determined efforts to bring all the health, economic and environmental benefits of biogas technology to farming families in rural China.”

Pioneering projects from Bangladesh, Mexico and Tanzania also won first prizes in other categories. Second prizes (10,000 pounds/18,000 dollars) were won by projects in Cambodia, China and southern Africa.

The awards have been instituted under the patronage of Prince Charles, who met and congratulated the winners. Leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron and former chief scientific advisor to the British government, Lord May, attended the presentation ceremony.

“These awards are inspiring a lot of people to excellence in this field,” Walton said. “Whether it’s Norfolk or Bangladesh, global warming is affecting everyone, and these awards are being recognised as a highlight of the environment calendar.”

Some of the other award winners for 2006:

– The Mwanza Rural Housing Project in Tanzania won the Africa Award for “using sustainable fuel sources to create profitable new businesses and provide decent housing while at the same time protecting the local environment.” The project has devised an innovative way to fire bricks for house building that uses rice husks, cotton waste, sawdust and coffee husks instead of wood. (For more details see: http://www.ashdenawards.org/media_summary06_tanzania)

– The Grupo Interdisciplinario de Tecnología Rural Apropriada in Mexico designed and developed, in collaboration with local women users, a cooking stove that cuts fuel wood use by up to 60 percent and indoor air pollution by 70 percent.

– The Grameen Shakti and Rahimafrooz Batteries Limited in Bangladesh have between them installed 90,000 solar home systems into rural homes across Bangladesh. Rahimafrooz is the main supplier of solar batteries and has helped design the solar systems, while Grameen devised innovative microcredit schemes to make solar energy affordable. They were awarded for “the central roles which they have both played in delivering the world’s most successful solar power programme bringing electric light and power to rural people.”

site admin