Six ‘solar cities’ to be developed in northeast

Agartala, July 25 (IANS) Guwahati and five other cities in the northeast will be developed as solar cities to reduce dependency on conventional energy, a top official has said.

The six cities – Guwahati and Jorhat in Assam, Kohima and Dimapur in Nagaland, Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh and Agartala in Tripura – will be developed under the Development of Solar Cities Programme of the union ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), the official of the Tripura’s urban development department said.

“To reduce dependency on conventional energy, the Tripura government has already launched an ambitious plan to make Agartala a solar city by initially replacing 10 percent of the power use by solar energy,” the official told IANS.

Gradually, the number of street lights and other lights at important locations would be replaced by solar lights and Agartala city would become the first solar city in the northeast region in the next few years, the official added.

“Solar power is a sustainable and viable source of energy. The electricity crisis cannot be solved unless we use non-conventional energy such as solar power in a big way,” the official noted.

As part of the project, solar hot water systems would be installed in all hotels, nursing homes, school hostels, government circuit houses and bungalows, hospitals and health centres, tourist lodges, temples and the governor`s residence.

“Theft of batteries and solar panels is a major problem the authorities face in implementing the solar electrification programme,” said another official of Tripura’s science, technology and environment department.

The MNRE would bear 90 percent of the cost involved and 10 percent would be borne by the respective northeastern state governments.

Elsewhere, 70 percent of the cost would be borne by the central government and 30 percent by the state authorities concerned .

“To popularise solar energy, lakhs of specially-designed ‘solar caps’ and ‘solar torches’ would be distributed among rickshaw pullers and students in the state,” the official added.

The Tripura government has also initiated a move to illuminate Agartala through LEDs, replacing sodium vapour and other lamps to save energy by over 40 percent.

The Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) has signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) to put up LED lights in large parts of Agartala city, Power and Urban Development Minister Manik Dey told reporters.

He said EESL would bear the entire Rs.20 crore cost of the project to install 35,000 LED lights. After completion of the work within the next few months, over 40 percent of electricity would be saved.

The EESL, a joint venture of union power ministry PSUs, carries out and promotes the business of energy efficiency, including manufacture and supply of energy efficient services and products and implements energy efficient projects.

Agartala will be the second city in eastern India after Kolkata to install LED street lights. So far, only Hyderabad and Vijayawada have LED lighting systems.

With a population of around 500,000, the AMC is northeast India’s oldest municipal body. The Agartala Municipal Council was turned into municipal corporation last year.

Agartala is the second largest city in northeast India after Guwahati.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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