Better lives through cleaner energy in South Asia

Several clean energy organisations operating in South Asia have been shortlisted for the 2016 Ashden International Awards - the world’s most prestigious green awards.

A company in Nepal powering a country through tailored financing; a father and daughter team providing safe water in Cambodia; an Indonesian organisation that is saving people money and preventing deforestation through water filters; and a network that is using solar power to lower costs for women salt farmers have all made it on to this year’s shortlist.

A quarter of Nepal’s population lives without any access to electricity, mostly in rural areas, whilst the remaining 21 million people are grid-connected but face long daily blackouts. Solar power can be the most reliable option but the initial cost puts it out of reach for many. Gham Power develops solar microgrids to power off-grid homes, and individual solar systems for small businesses, providing tailored financing packages to make them affordable.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, Gham Power is also bringing hope and information to the people who lost their homes, as well as vital electricity to health and aid workers, and providing solar lights and charging stations for mobile phones.

In India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan,salt production businesses are often owned and run by women and adolescent girls. Producing salt requires large volumes of salt water to be pumped into salt pans by means of diesel powered pumps. The fuel costs can comprise 70 per cent of their profits.

The Grassroots Trading Network, part of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), is introducing solar pumps to lower production costs and increase profits. The salt farmers use the savings from diesel to repay the cost of the solar pumps in instalments over four years.

Shree Reema Nanavaty, SEWA’s Director of Economic and Rural Organizing said: “The salt pan workers are the poorest of the poor. SEWA has organized more than 15,000 salt pan workers in their fight against poverty. Access to energy as their right, is of utmost importance. An Award from Ashden will help us reach freedom from poverty and starvation.”

Buying water from refill stations in Indonesia costs more than $100 a year per family and the water is often contaminated. More than Indonesian 26,000 children die annually from waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea. Nazava Water Filters enable lower income households to purify their well or tap water without the need to boil it by burning wood or using electricity.

This reduces disease and sickness, lowers household costs and reduces CO2 emissions. The company has sold 44,000 water filters and reached 220,000 people since 2009.

According to Lisa Heederik from Nazava Water Filters: “The entire Nazava team is very excited to hear that we have been shortlisted. As the Ashden awards are very competitive, being shortlisted means a huge recognition for our work and efforts to provide safe and affordable drinking water to everyone, everywhere”.

Eight out of 10 people without improved drinking water sources live in rural areas. By enabling rural populations in Cambodia to provide safe drinking water for themselves at an affordable price, 1001 Fontaines is helping to prevent diseases and supporting small business start-ups.

The organisation installs village-scale filtration kiosks, run by entrepreneurs who deliver bottles of drinking water to homes and schools. Their solar-powered purification process currently benefits over 340,000 customers including 90,000 children who are the most vulnerable to waterborne diseases.

According to François Jacquenoud of 1001 Fontaines: “While it’s an honour to be pre-selected for the Ashden Awards, for us it’s really the recognition of the sustainability and efficiency of our social business model to address the issue of safe drinking water. This prize would give us a better international visibility.”

A total of 11 Ashden Award winners will be announced at ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 9 June 2016. Winners will receive up to £30,000 and global recognition as one of 2016’s green energy trailblazers.

Sarah Butler-Sloss, Ashden’s Founder Director, said: “This year’s shortlist is one of our most exciting ever and the enterprises and programmes that have made it this far are amazing leaders at the very forefront of a low carbon future.”

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