The World Resources Institute (WRI) India, a research organization that works for the intersection of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being, has been trying to improve health care services in rural Assam through clean energy interventions.
Uninterrupted supply of electricity plays a pivotal role in the healthcare services which is still in a dismal state in rural Assam.
Therefore, in a bid to ensure uninterrupted power supply at Assam’s rural healthcare centres, especially in interior and flood-prone areas, WRI in collaboration with World Vision (WV) and Emmanuel Health Association (EHA), has undertaken a project to install solar Photo Voltaic (PV) systems.
“Using renewable energy – as an alternative to grid power, for improving the power situation at hospitals and health centers in rural and remote areas of Assam, is the need of the hour,” said Masfick Hazarika, senior project associate of WRI – India’s Energy Programme.
He said the WRI – India in collaboration with WV and EHA, has been implementing a programme by installing solar Photo Voltaic (PV) systems with battery backup in some places of lower Assam and Barak Valley.
Mitali Chandra, assistant commissioner of Goalpara said the use of renewable energy to improve the healthcare situation in rural areas, especially in interior places where grid power supply is not reliable, is the only option.
“The government can reduce carbon footprint and support in achieving the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for climate change while trying to achieve the goal of better healthcare facilities to all – wherever one lives or whatever his economic stratum is,” she added.
Grace Gangte, an official of WV – India, shared the success story of the installations of solar PVs by the WRI -India at the Lowaripua block in Karimganj district.
He said the installations became instrumental to provide uninterrupted electricity supply and to support the functioning of the vaccine cold chain points.
Burrows Memorial Christian Hospital (BMCH), Silchar claimed that they could reduce their operational expenses on diesel after the installation of the 17kWp RE system in October 2020.
Hazarika said that a handful of government health centres and the boat clinics in Assam started to get benefit from the RE interventions.
“After a discussion with the experts from energy-related enterprises like Gram Oorja, Envo Renewables, Selco Foundation, Hamara Grid etc, it is understood that RE interventions will be more effective with an integrated planning approach and proper sites selection after doing energy assessment,” he said.
Mrinal Chaudhary, additional director of Assam Energy Development Agency (AEDA), spoke on the challenges faced by the health sector in Assam.
“If we can ensure uninterrupted power supply, we will be able to use many advanced technologies in the healthcare sector,” Choudhury said.
He mentioned the RESCO (a financing model) model developed with support from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) that could help in reducing the upfront investment required for installing solar PV systems while also reducing the electricity expenses of the hospitals.
“Such new and innovative financing models have an important role to play to overcome a key barrier around funding resources to support RE interventions in social sectors like health and education,” he added.
Luit Goswami, the Director of Akajan (Dhemaji ) – based well-known Rural Volunteers’ Centre (RVC), a non-governmental organization which has been working for the flood-affected communities for several decades said,
“The concept of RE is really effective in rural healthcare centres – particularly in the disaster-prone areas.
“In Assam, flood disrupts road connectivity as well as power supply; hence, improved healthcare facilities become inaccessible to many during monsoon season,” he said.
Goswami suggested high-rise structures of any healthcare centre and installation of power sources be solar PV or a generator, on a raised platform.
The importance of reliable electricity supply for healthcare services – from operating equipment for diagnostics to conducting medical procedures or for storing vaccines or for ensuring access to water – is crucial.
The linkages between the healthcare sector and uninterrupted, reliable energy supply are crystal clear and the implementation of an RE roadmap is believed to be helpful in this context, which will also be helpful in reducing carbon emission.
Monoj Gogoi is a Dhemaji based environmental activist and also associated with People’s Action for Development.