West Bengal: Sunderbans solar grids, smart beehives clear Amphan test
Kolkata: Post Amphan, when most of the Sunderbans was reeling under power woes, two gram panchayat areas covering over 3,000 villagers set an example in the cyclone-ravaged landscape. Armed with environment-friendly solar micro grids, installed by WWF-India since 2011, they managed to get back power within only two-three days of the cyclone.
Of the seven micro grids, one is located under Kumirmari panchayat, while the rest are under Lahiripur GP area in Satjelia island. The micro grids stood strong and turned out to be places of emergency electricity sanctuaries within the mangroves.
A member of a village energy committee says, “Amphan uprooted trees, electric poles and snapped wires but together we made the solar micro grids up and running within days.” Subhro Sen, senior coordinator of energy, access and communities, WWF-India, said a community solar micro grid is a small energy system installed to provide resilient and stable energy supply for vital community facilities and assets.
“We, in partnership and consultation with local communities and other stakeholders, have so far installed six solar DC micro grids and one AC micro grid in Satjelia and Kumirmari islands under project ‘Sahasra Jyoti’. Post cyclone, the local communities have been able to successfully operationalize all functional solar micro grids in Satjelia and Kumirmari islands,” he added.
According to him, while 3,000 people get direct benefits from the grids, there are indirect beneficiaries too as the grids light up streets, schools, market places and relief shelters.
Micro grids are not the only one that stood strong in the face of storm. The apiary boxes — man-made beehives — set up under mangrove trees to help villagers collect honey without venturing into forest too remained unscathed. Ratul Saha, landscape coordinator, Sunderbans, WWF-India, said the upper canopy took the hit and thus, the apiary boxes got saved, safeguarding the interest of the traditional honey collectors.
The NGO in alliance with Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve has taken up a project to reduce man-animal conflict due to honey collection. Under this, apiary boxes are kept at designated locations in the forests. These are boxes where beehives of honey bees can be kept and bred.
“The results are exceptionally good. The daily yield of honey from each apiary box is nearly double than what was collected from wild bees. We have always been worried about our lives while going into the forests to collect honey — for ages, villagers have been losing their lives while trying to earn a living out of this. But now, with the apiary boxes, we can double the production of honey in safe ways,” said a villager.
Apiary boxes in Jharkhali, Kalash, Bonnie Island and Chulkathi now help 70 families on forest fringes to earn livelihood without risking lives.