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Pakistan among short-listed countries for prestigious Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy 2004 - 2004-06-08

Tuesday, 2004, June 8

Pakistan is one of the seven finalists, short-listed from around the globe for the prestigious Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy 2004, known in the world as ?Green Oscars' which are given for protecting the environment.The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy carries a prize of over ?140,000 and was created by a UK- based Trust in 2001 to promote inspirational renewable energy projects for providing social and economic benefits to local communities and contribute towards protecting the environment by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the Trust sources told APP here Thursday.
The seven finalists are from Pakistan, Guatemala, India, Kenya and will compete for four awards and over ?140,000 of prize money earmarked to help project expansion and replication in other communities both locally and nationwide. The winners of the four awards will be decided by last week of this month and will get these awards at an impressive ceremony scheduled to be held at Royal Geographical Society here on June 24.
The Ashden Awards have an expert panel of judges that comprises academics, practitioners, journalists and development NGO representatives, all working in the field of renewable energy. There are seven awards for projects within the developing world. Four first prizes of ?30, 000 and three runners-up prizes of ?7, 500. The winning entries are inspirational schemes that demonstrate the importance and relevance of appropriate energy technologies in improving people?s quality of life, whilst also safeguarding the local environment and the global climate.
The short listed projects for Ashden Awards in Pakistan included Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in the Northern Areas for its pioneering efforts in the Northern Areas with the aim of providing clean, affordable electricity to the population using water as the source of energy. This innovative technology, which has transformed the lives of 20,000 households in the Chitral region of the Hindu Kush, simply uses rushing water to create electricity.
Unlike dams, which invariably damage the local eco-system, the micro-hydel technology used by AKRSP, involves simply digging a narrow channel to divert water along a hillside and into a pipe creating enough pressure to turn a turbine and so produce 20 -100kw of power. The water is then released back into the river.
Together with community members, who are actively involved in the project implementation and management, AKRSP, under the leadership of Miraj Khan, has succeeded in installing over 180 micro-hydel units supplying electricity to 50% of population on Chitral. The projects are implemented, maintained and managed by the communities who also provide 40% of the installation cost and pay a monthly tariff to meet operating costs.
The projects have also reduced the household expenditures on energy and created jobs for around 400 poor. Most importantly, the self-esteem of the communities - who are part owners of the technology, has been greatly enhanced.
The technology is also easily replicated in other mountainous regions and has already been introduced in Afghanistan through the Aga Khan Development Network.
AKRSP is looking to introduce larger plants, which will provide energy for cooking and heating and so reduce dependence on fast diminishing firewood resources. Award money will be used to construct a Model Hydro Power Station in one of the remotest villages of Chitral, which will act as a pilot for the provision of energy for cooking and heating.
The second project was started by Escorts Foundation, Pakistan in the Changa Manga Forest which is the largest man-made irrigated forest in the world, covering an area of 12,510 acres.
Motivated by the desire to protect the forest and secure a sustainable future for the surrounding villages, the Escorts Foundation, a Lahore-based NGO, has been working hard to design and promote a fuel-efficient stove that not only cuts the need for fuel-wood by 50% but is also simple, easy to construct and cost-effective. The view of the Foundation is that only by developing a technology that is simple and as close as possible to the traditional stoves used by the local women, will the stoves be sustainable and widely used.
Previous projects that have been driven more by the technology than by local needs have required outside subsidies making them ultimately unsustainable. The Escorts stove, by contrast, uses the same materials as the traditional stove and is constructed in the home of the women who will use it by local women who are trained as 'Chulah Mechanics' and local blacksmiths.
The simplicity of the stove together with involvement on the community through training sessions and workshops has meant that there has been a take up rate of 70% in the 56 villages where the stove has been introduced. To date the Foundation has installed 11578 stoves in the communities surrounding the Changa Manga Forest.
Escorts stove project has both eased the pressure on the protected forest and significantly transformed the lives of the women users. Not only are the health hazards associated with cooking on open fires reduced, but women users have found their status in the household enhanced now that they are able to cook two meals at once and keep the food warm for their husbands.
Future plans include introducing the stove technology in the remaining 24 villages surrounding the Change Manga Forest as well as establishing a Fuel-Efficient Stove Resource Centre in order to facilitate the widespread dissemination of the technology on a national level. Award money will contribute towards these efforts, said the sources.

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