India’s first round-the-clock solar-powered village, Dharnai, has sparked controversy and anger among neighboring pastoral communities. The project, located in Bihar state, is powered by a 100-kilowatt solar microgrid and has been hailed as a model for sustainable development in rural India. However, the project has been accused of ignoring the needs and concerns of nearby pastoralist communities, who have been left without access to electricity.
The project, which was funded by Greenpeace India and the Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), aimed to provide reliable and affordable electricity to the 2,400 residents of Dharnai. The solar microgrid provides power to street lights, homes, schools, and businesses, enabling residents to live and work without fear of power outages. However, while the project has been a success in terms of meeting the energy needs of the village, it has also highlighted the challenges of balancing development and sustainability with the needs of neighboring communities.
One of the main concerns of the pastoralists is that the solar microgrid has reduced the availability of grazing land for their livestock. The village’s solar panels and infrastructure occupy land that was previously used by the pastoralists for grazing, and they are concerned about the long-term impact
on their livelihoods. In addition, some have also expressed concerns about the social and environmental impact of the project, such as the potential for increased migration and the use of resources such as water.
The controversy surrounding the Dharnai project highlights the need for sustainable development initiatives to engage with neighboring communities and take into account their concerns and needs. While renewable energy projects have the potential to provide significant benefits for rural communities, they must also be designed in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible. In this case, the project’s developers could have worked more closely with the pastoralist communities to ensure that their concerns were addressed and that the benefits of the project were shared more equitably.