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Solar power to revolutionise Bangladesh irrigation

Chetan Kanojia | Published: March 18, 2019 12:14:19 | Updated: March 23, 2019 12:51:52


Chetan Kanojia

Bangladesh is a small country. Irrigation plays a vital role in the agriculture of the country which is located in tropical delta. So, there is a huge potential of solar irrigation system in Bangladesh.

Solar pumps can provide sustainable solutions without requiring any fuel, reduce carbon emission and save millions in foreign currency.

Shakti Pumps (India) Ltd participated in the two-day long ‘Bangladesh Clean Energy Summit 2019’ held on March 10-11 in Dhaka organized by the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a state-run financial institution.

In the fair, we have got huge response from all concerned. We are very happy with the IDCOL initiative and we feel that if other countries especially African nation will follow the same Irrigation Model of IDCOL then it will resolve their water and food sufficiency problem. People from grassroots to upper level have expressed their interest on Shakti products especially on solar pumps. Also, international delegates have asked about our solar pump project. Such kind of summit or exhibition should be organized in every six-month interval or yearly.

Shakti solar pump is playing a great role in installing solar pumps in Bangladesh for irrigation. Shakti Pumps (Bangladesh) Ltd, is supplying to a partner organization (PO) of IDCOL has so far supplied 15 MW solar-powered irrigation pumps and aims to take the number to 50 MW by the end of 2020.

Now, it has covered a total of 57,000 bighas of land of 32,000 farmers to produce 69,000 metric tonnes of rice per year.

Shakti Solar pumps have three years payback as per their study in Senegal and the life of Solar Water Pumping System is 20 years because of High Efficient Stainless Steel Pumps.

I have already visited some 20-25 districts of Bangladesh. The land and atmosphere of Bangladesh is very convenient to use solar water pumps as the ground water level is not very far from the surface. 

We have set up Shakti Pumps (Bangladesh) Limited office in 19 th Floor UTC Building – Kawran Bazar Dhaka. We are supplying solar pumps in Bangladesh to Gazi Renewable Energy, Solargao Limited, Scube Technology and Sherpa Power.

In future, we have a plan to set up Assembly Unit of Shakti Solar pumps in Bangladesh as the country needs a huge number of solar pumps for irrigation. It will be easy for Bangladeshi people to get the pumps with low cost prices.

Due to environment friendly and extra ordinary benefits, we are currently exporting our solar pumps in 50 countries around the world.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Shakti solar pumps were installed in India while 15,000 Shakti solar pumps were installed in almost every continent including Asia Pacific, Middle East, USA, Europe and Africa.

Electricity is the key to economic growth and development for a country like Bangladesh. And to reduce the burden on the national grid, the country needs to develop solar energy to meet the demand for fuel without affecting the environment.

Expansion of solar irrigation will cut dependency on diesel and electricity. Presently, Bangladesh has 1.34 million diesel pumps and these consume at least 1 million tonnes of diesel worth $900 million per year. The government provides huge subsidy to keep its price affordable for farmers.

On the other hand, about 3.20 lakh pumps are run by electricity to irrigate crops on a total of 54.48 lakh hectares in the dry season and some1,700-1,800 megawatts of electricity are consumed for irrigating rice fields.

An increased number of people are getting interested in solar irrigation pumps due to their financial viability and lower cost. A farmer has to pay Tk 3,000-Tk 4,000 for each bigha of land as irrigation charge during a crop season for diesel or electricity run pump, whereas for solar irrigation pumps it is Tk 2,500-Tk 2,800.

The potential of solar irrigation system in Bangladesh is huge. The average capacity of a solar irrigation pump is 18.5 Kw and it can irrigate 130 bighas of land. The pump of 18.5 kW size is capable of lifting 25 – 30 Lac liters of water per day in local solar irradiation condition.

Under IDCOL solar irrigation programme, pumps with 3 -18.5 kW capacity and dynamic head ranging from 10-18 meters are being used.

Most of the solar pumps have been installed in the north and eastern regions as during the dry season, farmers cannot irrigate crop fields properly as they do not get water in their shallow tube wells for lowering of the water table in the aquifer.

Farmers also remain anxious about whether they can irrigate the fields timely. Now, they do not face any problem in getting water during the dry season.

The installation of a 18.5 kW solar pump requires 15 Decimal. The scarcity of land makes solar-based irrigation on a large scale difficult. So, a well plan should be taken during installing these devices for getting maximum benefit.

We are installing the solar panels in such a way that the farmers can grow other crops on the land used for the solar irrigation pump.

Solar pumps are contributing to improve farmers' livelihoods, increase climate change resilience of the agriculture sector and strengthen food security. Smooth supply of water for irrigation will help to increase agricultural productivity.

In the remote off-grid areas, the farmers remained worry over getting water for irrigation for a good harvest. In every Boro season, they had to hire a diesel-run pump and buy diesel to grow crops on land. Moreover, the machine could not pump out enough water due to depleting water level there and they got poor yield. With the installed solar irrigation pumps, farmers can now irrigate their lands without any hassle and make more profit than before as earlier they had to wait for days to get diesel for running their pumps for irrigation.

IDCOL’s funding is very well-managed. Solar energy-based irrigation project started in Bangladesh in 2010 under the initiative of IDCOL. In 2013, IDCOL initiated a pilot project with a target to install 1,500 solar irrigation pumps across the country by 2018. So far, IDCOL has approved 1,429 solar irrigation pumps, with 1,186 of them already operational and the rest under construction. The installed solar-based irrigation pumps provide water on over 106,848 bighas of land for rice cultivation.

Over the years, IDCOL discovered the huge prospects of solar irrigation pumps due to its acceptance among farmers.  They now have set the target of installing 50,000 solar-powered irrigation pumps across Bangladesh by 2025 in a bid to promote alternative energy and limit reliance on fossil fuels. The projected solar powered irrigation pumps will cover more than millions of bighas of land.

The World Bank and several other organisations were supporting the initiative. IDCOL works with NGOs, MFIs or private entities, known as partner organisations (POs), to implement the programme.

IDCOL provides grants to set up irrigation schemes run by renewable sources with a view to reducing dependency on diesel. It provides 50 percent of the project cost as grant and 35 percent as soft loan with an interest rate of only 6 percent and 10 years as tenure. Only the rest 15 percent cost has to invest as equity by the private sector investor.

As there is the immense potential of the solar irrigation, the government should replace all diesel-based systems with solar irrigation pumps in the off-grid areas where there are possibilities to produce three types of crops all the year round.

To popularize the solar irrigation pumps, investment in research and innovation is needed to bring down the upfront cost of the pumps.

More initiatives should be taken to engage private sector sponsors such as private limited companies, microfinance institutions, and NGOs to install more solar pumps in the country. Because, more solar pumps, more production more income and more development.

 

(The writer is Managing Director of Shakti Pumps (Bangladesh) Ltd. E-mail: chetan.kanojia@shaktipumps.com)

 

 

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