Photo Courtesy of Niyam Raj Shrestha Kathmandu and Angel Chitraker Laliptur

Light for All is the campaign slogan for the solar tuki project in Nepal. I came across it when I was thinking about writing a story on ‘green issues.’  As I read about solar tukis I felt I had the basis for a story of a family living in a remote village in Nepal.  At first the story was to be about Chandra, the girl with the ‘moon name.’ But then I thought it would be nice if she had a big sister, Deena, and they would contrive together to get a solar tuki for the family. And then came baby Akash. The sisters have honey and herbs for Akash’s cough on their shopping list. So when Chandra discovers the solar tuki in the market, her first thought is for baby brother Akash and his bad chest.

The history of the solar lamp is quite recent. It was developed in 1999 by Anil Chitrakar and Babu Raj Shrestha and in 2003 the final model was completed. It has been introduced very successfully into Nepalese villages which have no access to electricity. The villages have until now used the traditional kerosene tuki, which is a real health hazard. The soot residue left by burning kerosene causes coughs and irritates the eyes. Babies like Akash are particularly vulnerable. The traditional tuki is also a fire risk. Houses often burn to the ground, especially in the windy months of April and May. The villagers have to make regular trips to buy kerosene, always time consuming for people with much to do. Solar power from the sun is right there where they live. Also the cost of kerosene takes quite a portion of their wages which would now be freed to be spent on other things. Children like Chandra and Deena can study at night by the light of the solar tuki, which gives a much brighter light than the kerosene tuki. And the tuki fumes add generally to greenhouse gas emissions. Solar tukis are to everyone’s advantage.

Photo Courtesy of CSTS at Santa Clara University

For many villages like Chandra’s in the foothills of the Himalayas life is hard. There are no roads. The footpaths that wend their way past raging rivers are often hazardous. Rope suspension bridges, like the one Chandra and Deena use, with the ‘roaring dragon’ beneath them, are the only way of getting across the rivers.  As well as its use as a lamp, the solar tuki can power a radio and charge a mobile phone, providing contact with the outside world for these remote villages.

Photo Courtesy of Niyam Raj Shrestha Kathmandu and Angel Chitraker Lalitpur

Some villagers are resistant to the solar tuki. They find it expensive and are used to the kerosene version. A micro-financing system has been set up so that even the poorest people can pay in small amounts over a two year period. Service centres have also been set up where villagers can get their lamps mended and where spare parts are supplied.

Word of mouth is an excellent way to spread the idea of the solar tuki. Deena and Chandra would be sure to relate their story in school. Chandra would love to share the drama of how they bought the very last tuki in the market. And that she was the one who first discovered it.  I hope that all families will reap the benefits of solar tukis, just like Chandra’s, and make Light for All a reality in Nepal.

Author Theresa Heine

 

 

 

 

Chandra’s Magic Light will release in May 2014.

Learn more about this upcoming title here!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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