UK magazine brings out special issue on Bihar

PATNA: Alliance, UK’s leading magazine for philanthropy and social investment worldwide, has done a special feature on Bihar in its June 2011 issue.The feature focuses on the alternative energy sector in Bihar, explores the role of key implementers and discusses how they could work better with the philanthropic sector.

Guest editor Simon Desjardins in his article, ‘Why does Bihar matter?’, says there are three main reasons why the state has been chosen as a focus for the special feature. First, for those readers interested in energy provision and the services that could be delivered as a result of rural electricity provision, this state is a hotbed of innovation. Indeed, some of the world’s most ground-breaking rural electrification businesses are scaling up in the state. “We need to learn from them.”

Second, energy in Bihar may seem like a narrow focus, irrelevant to a development organization or investor working in education in Africa, for example. The opposite is true. In many ways, Bihar is a proxy for the rest of India, and a unique test bed for technology and service innovation that could be applied throughout the world.

Third, because access to products and services is so limited in Bihar, the opportunity to make a significant difference is heightened. Bihar’s 90 million or so inhabitants almost universally lack access to reliable energy, education and health care services, he says in his six-page write-up.

The magazine has also profiled a company that uses rice husks and other biomass waste to generate electricity for remote villages. In an interview, Husk Power Systems’ co-founder and CEO Gyanesh Pandey describes the genesis of the idea and his hopes for the future. Also, investors talk about why they provided finance for the project.

Simon and Alliance editor Caroline Hartnell paid a weeklong visit to Bihar in March. In her editorial, Caroline says, “The experience of driving through the countryside as it gets dark is fresh in my memory… as dusk approaches, and then night, complete darkness falls across the landscape, the little villages lost from sight.” She further writes, “The desire to bring light and energy to the estimated 75% of the 90 million inhabitants of Bihar who have no access, or extremely limited access, to electricity is the driving force behind entrepreneurs like Gyanesh Pandey of Husk Power Systems and Anish Thakkar of Greenlight Planet, with whom I spent several days, visiting the villages where they are working and talking to the people who are benefiting.

“Anish Thakkar of Greenlight Planet talks about his ambition to see kerosene lamps replaced by solar lights throughout India, their system for distributing lamps via village-level direct sellers and their plans for expansion.


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