PERREAULT Magazine September 2014 - Page 40

Narendra Modi's slogan for India is 'development for everyone' but will this development be based on coal or people-centred clean energy?

KSabka saath, sabka vikas: development for everyone. That was the campaign slogan of India's new prime minister Narendra Modi during the recent elections.

In about two months, Modi will join other business and political leaders in New York to pledge what they will do to battle climate change. India is a climate lynchpin, as it has historically argued that southern countries cannot take action on climate change because they need to develop first. But countries like India can – and should – develop and tackle climate change at the same time.

Two villages in central India are demonstrating a choice between very different models of development: one, a person-centred approach based on zero emission clean energy; the other, corporate-centred and based on climate-wrecking coal.

Greenpeace and the local community in July 2014 launched a solar microgrid in Dharnai, a village in the state of Bihar that has not had electricity for over 30 years. Until now, the only power has come from expensive diesel generators and lighting from health-damaging kerosene lamps. The new microgrid, owned by the community themselves, powers more than 450 households and 50 commercial establishments, as well as street lights, two schools, one health centre, one farmer training centre and 10 water-pumping systems.

More than 300 million people in India (and 1.3 billion people worldwide) still lack access to electricity: in Bihar 82% of the population still rely on kerosene. Decentralised renewable energy offers the chance not only to deliver electricity directly, but also to create jobs and enhance the rural economy. Many income-generating activities require reliable access to energy, especially light. This is development at its best, allowing people to own and control their energy and targeting it to their needs. While the community in Dharnai celebrates its electrification, another community – in the Mahan forest of Madhya Pradesh – struggles under the looming threat of a coalmine developed by Indian conglomerate Essar. Amelia is a village in Mahan of 2,000 people who earn sustainable income by collecting and selling seasonal forest produce such as mahua flowers and tendu leaves. The company's plan is to cut down forest to make way for the coalmine, meaning local residents would lose these livelihoods, and the energy produced would be for industry; not people.

by Kumi Naidoo,

Executive Director of

Greenpeace International

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