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Solar lanterns light up lives of young survivors

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) today launched Project Chirag, an income-generation initiative for young survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster. The ICJB has decided on having “hope” and “rebuilding” as the key themes for the 20th anniversary of the gas disaster and this is the first such initiative. The project will be carried out by Bhopal ki Aawaaz, an organization of people orphaned by the disaster and a constituent of ICJB.

A first in Bhopal, this project is also the first initiative of the Solar Generation, a youth campaign launched by Greenpeace India. As part of the project, Bhopal ki Aawaaz has received 30 photovoltaic solar lanterns and its members have received training in using them for income generation. The three members of Bhopal ki Aawaaz currently running the business of lending out solar lanterns to vegetable vendors are Shahid Noor, Sanjay Verma and Sadanand.

The solar lamps are charged during the day and rented out in the evening to vendors in Chhola bazaar for Rs. 8 (£0.10p) for each lamp for 5 hours. Apart from generating Rs 900 (£11) per month for each of the youngsters in the initial phase of the business, this venture will help replace petromax and lead-acid battery lanterns with clean, renewable energy based lanterns. Sunmin, a Chennai-based organisation is already running a similar income-generation project successfully on Chennai beaches

Shahid Noor and colleagues from Bhopal ki Aawaaz at the press conference with solar lanterns

“Our group was formed to give voice to the demands of the orphans of the disaster and income generation is a key demand for us. We are confident that we will be able to run this environment friendly income generation project and some of us will be able to earn some steady income. More importantly, it will give us the wherewithal to continue with our struggle for economic rehabilitation by the government.” said Shahid Noor of Bhopal ki Aawaaz.

According to Vinuta Gopal of Greenpeace-India. “Though the solar lantern project is small compared to the enormity of the problem of joblessness among the survivors, the Chirag project will hopefully make the state and central governments take note of the urgent need for economic rehabilitation.”

Champa Devi Shukla, Secretary of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh and winner of the International Goldman Environmental Prize for 2004, said “We have made plans for several other income generating environment-friendly projects and are currently gathering resources and setting up the infrastructure for their implementation. Hopefully, by December we will have more good news for Bhopal survivors.”

Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Prakash Tripathi, Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace-India
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

1. House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: 3132298, 3132959
2. B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel : 9826167369

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