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Lights from India now illuminate homes in Afghanistan

Chintapally, July 6, 2007 (The Hindu – India): A tiny organisation in this village in Andhra Pradesh’s Nalgonda district is now a part of international efforts to reconstruct Afghanistan, supplying home lights based on LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology.

The small lantern-type lamp, developed by “Thrive” (jumbled acronym for Volunteers For Rural Health, Education and Information Technology), has been illuminating about 4,000 homes in the provinces of Kabul and Maidan Wardak in Afghanistan since November 2006. A consignment of 3,000 lamps is all set to reach there this month, according to B. Ranganayakulu Bodavala, founder of Thrive.

“[The illumination provided by] our light is undoubtedly equal to a half a dozen kerosene lanterns and it can also be recharged with solar light,” Dr. Ranga, who has an MBA besides a Ph.D. in information systems, said.

United Nations Emergency Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) entrusted the task to the organisation to convince Afghans that this form of lighting is the most suitable in the absence of kerosene supply. As the $1.4-lakh project has come to an end, many local women are requesting Thrive to continue it, ready to pay from their savings.

Community participation is the key. “Each battery in the lamp lasts for three to four years and the village volunteer appointed by us recharges it once in a week. Our volunteers carry back-up batteries to replace the used ones,” Dr. Bodavala said.

As part of Columbia University’s Millennium Village project, Thrive dispatched 500 lamps to Kenya. Another 300 were sent to Cambodia under an international project. Some non-governmental organisations have been working with Thrive to illuminate more off-grid areas in India. It is implementing a project for 10,000 Kondh homes in Koraput district with World Bank support.

The organisation imports LEDs from Japan, control circuits from the United States and batteries from China. It has produced 16,000 LED-based lights and is planning to go for mass production at a sprawling complex here to meet national and international demand.