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Solar powered floating boats - transforming lives in Bangladesh

Nov 20, 2012

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a not for profit organisation, has introduced solar-powered floating boats in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh to empower village communities through information sharing and education.

Every year during monsoon time, one-third of the land in Bangladesh goes under floodwater. Scientists predict that 17 per cent of the land in Bangladesh will disappear by 2050 on account of climate change. Global warming has increased the magnitude of flooding in the past few years. School dropout rates have increased tremendously as children cannot go to school during the monsoon season due to flooding. Access to timely medical help is also a big problem in this area.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a not for profit organisation, has introduced solar-powered floating boats to empower the communities through information sharing and education. These boats make their way through the rivers, docking at villages to teach farmers about affordable technologies and environmentally sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation techniques, solar products, healthcare and human rights.

Five boats have been functioning as mobile healthcare units providing free health care to more than 300 villagers every day. These health care boats have doctors and paramedics on board equipped with necessary medicines which are given free to the patients as per their needs.

About 20 boats have been transformed into mobile schools that move from village to village conducting classes for rural children. All the boats have a small library, internet linked laptops, printers and mobile phones.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha also introduced a solar lantern made from conventional recycled parts of a kerosene lantern. These lamps have provided families with high-quality light in the evening and people save on the cost of kerosene. The lamp batteries can be charged at charging stations of the mobile boat schools and other training boats.  The villagers bring their batteries to re-charge on the boats twice a week and pay US $0.073 for every re-charge. Fifty percent of the income generated from battery charging is directed towards Shidhulai operational costs and expansion, and the rest goes back to the community in the form of school, library and healthcare support.

These mobile boats provide practical advice and education that help villagers learn to help themselves. Proximity of the resources has motivated parents to send their children, particularly girls to learn and study. It has generated considerable enthusiasm, interest and local involvement. This mobile boat model demonstrates that information technology and ingenuity, when aligned and developed with community needs and expertise, can help meet some of the most basic human needs and improve people’s lives.

SOURCE: Basin South Asia

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