Today S3IDF is pleased to present you the third post in our Integrated Energy Centres series: The Lingarajpuram IEC.
IECs are solar-powered enterprises that provide a range of basic services and activities to underserved communities. IECs, a concept driven by the SELCO Foundation, are developed in conjunction with S3IDF and other partners.
The Lingrajpuram IEC
The Lingrajpuram slum is located in Henurdepo, Kacharkanhalli, Bangalore, and is a settlement of over 300 households (approximately 1,200 people). This slum settlement is a small part of a 100-acre expanse of land that once was a lake. A temple trust next to the land informally allows the Lingrajpuram residents to inhabit the space.
The residents are from different parts of Karnataka and speak a variety of languages. They earn their livings as daily contract workers and laborers, domestic cleaners, and gardeners. The monthly income per family is between Rs. 5000-7000 with an average family size of six to eight members. They use kerosene and firewood as their main source of energy and fuel. Households spend Rs. 250-300 on kerosene (for 6-7 liters of the black market) for their lighting and a minimum of Rs. 50 to charge their phones each month. Although kerosene is a less than ideal lighting source, providing only dim ambient light and an abundance of toxic fumes, residents often struggle to even access kerosene during shortages, forcing them to spend time in complete darkness. Their main challenges, apart from lighting, include water and sanitation. They use open areas as toilets and build secluded areas for bathing.
Almost all residents aged 15 and older work and contribute to the family income. Children below the age of 15 normally take care of younger siblings, cook, and guard their homes. The majority of households cannot afford to send any of their children to school.
Due to Lingrajpuram’s status as an informal settlement, obtaining permission to introduce services into the community posed initial challenges. A need assessment, which included perspectives from different stakeholders in the slum’s “ecosystem,” determined that three priority services were needed: education, awareness on social issues (specifically alcohol abuse), and basic energy services. Four demonstrations were held in both small and larger groups to understand the requirements residents had for basic lighting and mobile charging services. These initial services are being used as “entry point” interventions.
Given restrictions on permanent structures imposed by the landowners and overseers, the IEC needed to be built in a style similar to the existing homes in order to help allay fears that efforts were being undertaken to formalize the settlement or gain control of the area.
As part of the initial fieldwork and IEC development process, the IEC team conducted research on and held discussions with relevant potential partners who could add value to the IEC basic energy services or in the fields of education, livelihood, and health.
Building the structure was a critical component of this phase, to foster partnerships, gain community trust, and determine the services that would be housed in the IEC. The building process was a shared responsibility between the IEC team and local laborers.
This IEC is a good entry point for the community – not only to meet basic energy requirements through a decentralized charging station – but as a community hub that will help to support developments on many other fronts.
Good Neighbors India runs a day care and a basic literacy for program for children of all ages at the IEC. Additionally, the Parinaam Foundation uses the IEC to hold evening lessons for children in English and community meetings that focus on providing better livelihood opportunities and expanding financial literacy). Parinaam also conducts an alcohol addiction recovery program in conjunction with a state initiative. Current services directly provided by the IEC include lighting for the space, battery packs and home lighting systems for rent, and a mobile charging kiosk.
Future services will include a smoke extraction project to help households control cooking smoke, a water access project (efficient water transport units will be available for rent), health camps, and a community television.
The IEC’s revenue collection from services rendered cover the salary of the operators and the maintenance, repairs and replacements for energy related services. The capital costs will be recovered within five to seven years.
Residents of Lingrajpuram who came together to build the IEC, opened the new facility in June 2013. The impact and the interest from the residents from the first couple of weeks suggest that over 100 households will be served within the first year alone.
The vast difference in quality of light and living standards after sunset is extremely evident, Customers report increased productivity levels in the homes as well as a greater sense of safety. The households that have taken advantage of the household lighting rental services are now spending the same amount or, in some cases, significantly less money on cleaner, brighter, and more reliable sources of lighting.
Beyond the basic energy service and extra savings, the IEC facilitates all partner services which impact livelihood opportunities, education, awareness, and health.