In 2014, the CHT Development Facility successfully applied for resources from the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia Pacific Greening Fund to shift from generators to solar in 10 upazila (sub-district) offices.
The CHT Development Facility’s current 19 upazila office buildings have traditionally received electricity through the national power grid, which was supplemented by generators due to frequent and lengthy power cuts – often during the rainy season. Generators were used an average of 4 hours a day, with electricity primarily being used for lighting and powering office equipment. Some offices were entirely off-grid and fully dependent on generators. While the use of generators did result in a more reliable source of power, air and noise pollution by-products presented a source of discomfort for both staff, neighbouring residents and nearby schools. This, combined with the growing maintenance cost and absence of appropriate waste disposal facilities for dirty fuel prompted the CHT Development Facility to explore more environmentally and socially friendly technologies for generating electricity. Solar panels were selected for their reliability, neutral health impacts, and savings in greenhouse gas production.
Late last year, solar technology was successfully rolled out in 10 selected upazilas across all three districts. Despite only being installed for a short period, the positive impacts have already been observed by staff. Regular power for office equipment has been secured, noise pollution has been removed and staff productivity has increased. Furthermore, air contamination and generator fuel costs from targeted CHTDF office buildings have been eliminated entirely.
Upazila Facilitator Maung Kyaw Thing is located in the remote CHT Development Facility Barkal upazila office, almost 60 kilometres from the Rangamati headquarters. His office has been without national power grid access since its inception in 2005, making it fully dependent on generators. However with the recent shift to solar, Maung has found the benefits to be tangible.
“Since getting the solar panels Barkal office is receiving sufficient power, which is very important from any view point for well-functioning project activities. Now we are well equipped and enjoying power which will play a big role in the effective and timely accomplishment of office tasks. Receiving reliable power after almost 10 years of waiting has been a dream!”
The CHT Development Facility Matiranga office in Khagrachari is another building to recently transition to green technology. After the installation of all equipment, including 6 solar panels, the office assistants and guards received an orientation on how to operate and maintain the system to ensure its longevity. While all staff have been enjoying the stable and noise free electricity supply, the office security team have particularly seen the benefits of having regular power.
“As we have always have light at night, our office is more secured” said security guard Aongsaprue Marma when asked about the benefits of going solar. “Everywhere is dark when there is no electric power, but now we have light. The UNDP office has increased its efficiency having set up the solar panels” added Aongsaprue’s colleague, Sustanta Tripura.
Further to the clear environmental benefits and advantages of increased staff efficiency, the projected financial savings are significant. Through the combined removal of generator-diesel and reduction in electricity expenses, it is projected that the Facility will be saving over USD 30, 000 per year. Accordingly, initial investments by the Greening Fund and the CHT Development Facility will likely break even after only three years.
Facility upazila offices that have transitioned to solar panel include Barkal, Jurachari, Kaptai and Rajasthali in the Rangamati district; Matiranga, Panchari and Mahalchari across Khagrachari district; and Ruma, Thanchi and Naikhyangchari situated in Bandarban district.
The Greening Fund contribution doubled the Facility’s own commitment, with half of necessary costs drawn from our own operations budget.
The CHT Development Facility has been supporting the Government of Bangladesh to promote sustainable peace and development in the post-conflict CHT region as guided by the Accord. Our work in focused on capacity strengthening of CHT institutions to effectively manage and deliver services, and working with communities to take charge of their own development. The CHT Development Facility works across all 25 upazilas and 118 unions in the CHT, prioritizing the remote and underserviced areas.
Facility projects are delivered with the support of our development partners – European Union, Government of Denmark, Embassy of Sweden, Government of Japan and USAID.