English.news.cn   2014-02-22 10:07:36

By Bibbi Abruzzini

BIRGUNJ, Nepal, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) — Close to 100 power-starved small houses in the town of Birgunj in Nepal’s Parsa District, 145 km south of Kathmandu, now have cheap lighting thanks to a technology developed in Brazil but popularized in the Philippines.

The Ujyalo (which means”light”in Nepali) project is bringing daytime indoor lighting to homes of low-income households in Nepal by installing water-filled plastic bottles through holes in their roofs.

The manufacturing cost of each bottle is only 1 U.S. dollar and 78 cents.

The low-tech alternative to traditional light bulbs is one of the most cost-efficient and greenest ways to light up homes.

Ujyalo draws inspiration from the “A Liter of Light” project popularized by Illac Diaz, a social entrepreneur from the Philippines, who has made waves in the world of sustainable development through his project.

Diaz spread the simple technology originally conceived by Alfredo Moser from Brazil and wants 1 million bottle lights installed around the world by 2015.

“We want to promote this innovative idea in Nepal to improve people’s lives particularly in the rural areas,”Amuda Mishra, founder of Ujyalo, told Xinhua.

Mishra said their goal is not just lighting homes but also to empower communities so that they can be self-reliant by using the resources readily available in their areas.

Like in most rural communities, low-income households in Birgunj have no power and no windows.

Some hooked up to power lines illegally and some used candles or kerosene lamps during the chronic power cuts which can last for up to 16 hours in Nepal.

Despite the benefits from using the low-cost technology, Ujyalo, however, noticed that they cannot please everybody as some have negative reaction because of the use of the lowly plastic bottles.

Some people felt being looked down upon after the installation of bottle bulbs in their homes. Mishra said.

“A plastic bottle is not seen as something luxurious. We are trying to remove that kind of attitude and to emphasize that the plastic bottle is something that is of great value because it lightens up homes of the poor,” Mishra said.

But how can a plastic bottle which usually belongs to the dustbin provides light equivalent to a 55-watt electric bulb?

It is sufficient to add bleach to the water to keep it clean and clear. When the water in the bottle above catches the sun, it lights up the room below.

The bulbs have a three to five-year life and have no operating cost while in use.

Samjhana, a young Nepali woman, told Xinhua that having a free light means a lot of savings for the family. In her tiny house, natural light comes in only through the front door.

“I can save up to 400 rupees a month (about 4 U.S dollars). Instead of paying my electricity bill I can use the money for something else,” Samjhana said.

“The bottle makes it easier for us to study and to find what we are looking for since our house has no windows,” she added.

In the future, Ujyalo plans to develop a night lighting system and to introduce it in both Nepal’s rural and urban areas to promote green and renewable energy in the Himalayan nation.

According to energy expert, Pragyan Pradhan, Ujyalo provides power to those who need it the most, and is playing a role in narrowing the big gap between Nepal’s energy supply and demand.

“You have houses which are dark in the middle of the day. This is a simple, yet a very effective solution, not only in terms of lighting, but also from an economic standpoint. Installing such source of light in a household affects the entire family in a positive way,” Pradhan said.