The Developing World Faces a Silent Killer. Could a $1 Solar Light Help?
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Every day at around 6pm, 40 families living in a remote corner of Andhra Pradesh in southeast India – a 6km walk from the nearest road – would be swallowed by darkness. With no access to electricity, sunset was a non-negotiable curfew – going outside was dangerous, people couldn’t cook and children were unable to do their homework.
This changed in April 2015 when Liter of Light, a project that transforms plastic bottles into simple solar lights, introduced solar-powered street lamps to the villages. “Some of the children had never seen [artificial] light in their lives,” says Pankaj Dixit, co-founder of Liter of Light’s Bangalore branch in India. “They said we had added four hours to their lives every day.”
Projects brought in from overseas have been criticised for creating dependency, but while India has a target of 100% village electrification by 2018, there is still a significant access gap that these cheap solar lights could help address.
More than 1.5 billion people worldwide face darkness, candlelight or the toxic fumes that escape from kerosene lamps – known as the silent killer. Liter of Light is trying to tackle this at a local level by putting up lights in slums, remote rural areas, refugee camps and also areas that have been devastated by natural disasters such as typhoons.