Solar panels emerge as flicker of light in the race to survive floods

- August 1, 2023
| By : Mohd Shehwaaz Khan |

Harnessing sun's energy to rebuild lives, solar panels energise Delhi's flood shelters

Solar panels have become the lifeline for those living on the floodplain

A stroll through the Delhi flood relief camp in Mayur Vihar offers a glimpse into the challenging life of those seeking shelter — long queues for food, women carrying water containers on their heads, and men seeking respite under blue tarpaulin tents.

However, amid the daily struggles, the blue, rectangular solar panels stand out.

The Yamuna Pushta relief camp houses nearly 100 such makeshift tents, each filled with personal belongings, clothes, utensils, and the valuable solar panel with a battery.

“When the flood-waters arrived, my priority was to ensure the safety of my wife and children. Once the water receded slightly, I hurried back to my jhuggi and retrieved this solar panel,” says Pravesh Kumar, while playing with his children on a cot outside his tent.

Kumar, who used to cultivate vegetables on a leased land near the Yamuna floodplains, has a one-year-old son named Prince. He points proudly to the fan, powered by solar energy, providing comfort to his child during the sweltering nights. 

He says he purchased the solar panel two years ago for Rs 3,200, and recently acquired another one for Rs 4,000 — both sufficient to operate a fan and a lightbulb during night-time.

Similar stories echo throughout the Yamuna Pushta relief campsite, as every individual, while fleeing for life, made sure to take along not just the clothes and important possessions, but also the precious solar panel.

Shiv Kumar, who used to work in a nursery near Yamuna Bank, emphasises that solar panels provide a sense of security, guaranteeing access to electricity everywhere. 

“The larger ones, equipped with a battery, cost around Rs 14-15,000. With that, one can run a small fan, a light, and occasionally even a TV,” he adds.

The prevalence of solar panels is not just a result of government or NGO support, but rather the residents’ personal initiatives. Most people living on the floodplains are beyond the reach of the electricity grid due to the lack of permanent land in their name. Many of them had migrated to Delhi in search of work and reside in makeshift tents until they can afford proper housing.

Living on the floodplain means no access to conventional electricity, making solar energy the lifeline for these communities. 

“It also keeps us safe. We live on floodplains, where the risk of encountering snakes and other animals is always present. So, I bought the solar panel to keep my family, especially my children, safe,” says another resident who works in a nursery in Yamuna.

The government has established approximately 25-30 tents in the Mayur Vihar area, equipped with LED bulbs for lighting during the night. 

However, these are insufficient to accommodate all the families displaced by the floods. More than twice the number of families reside in their makeshift tents, which lack access to electricity.