09 Dec 2014 23:00
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Access to electricity is a key element in development. However, in Thailand there is an important gap in access to energy between rich and poor that has persisted over the years, especially in rural areas. The situation is critical in some marginal areas, such as the Thai-Burma border.
The lack of electricity makes these communities more vulnerable. In these areas, some villagers depend on candles or kerosene lamps that are very expensive and have a negative impact on their health. They also pose serious risks to their livelihoods since their homes are usually constructed with bamboo and dried leaves that can easily catch fire. On the other hand, these communities must gather wood in order to satisfy their most basic needs, tasks that are normally carried out by women, cutting into the time and energy they could devote to other economic activities. Moreover, some schools and hospitals do not have access to power for needs as basic as keeping vaccines refrigerated.
The Thai government implemented solar energy systems in more than 200.000 households in 2004. However, most of the systems died because of the lack of maintenance. In this context, a Thai woman founded an organization to refurbish the old equipment and to train local people on how to maintain it. Her project aims to be self-sustainable. If successful, it could bring some much needed relief to families who currently struggle to meet their energy needs.