Assam has 15 floating clinics serving the inhabitants of river islands in 32 villages of 13 districts.
In the flood-ravaged areas surrounding the Brahmaputra river in Assam, equipping boat clinics with solar panels has given a shot in the arm to the vision of bringing healthcare within everyone’s reach.
Along the river’s path lie about 2,500 river islands, bereft of development and inhabited by small farmers and tribals. Every year when the river overflows in monsoon, more than 25 lakh people living on these islands bear the brunt of deluge. Boat clinics have been around since 2005, equipped with an out-patient department, labs, pharmacies and other first-line health services. Starting this May, some of them are running on solar power, a switch that has improved healthcare delivery.
Assam has 15 floating clinics serving the inhabitants of river islands in 32 villages of 13 districts. In May, solar panels were affixed on the roof of five of them, enabling them to operate 24×7, if need be. Earlier, they’d have to close their operations as the daylight faded.
In 2016, C-NES signed an agreement with Bengaluru-based SELCO Foundation, started by Magsaysay Award winner Harish Hande, to power these clinics with solar energy.
Assam has 15 floating clinics serving the inhabitants of river islands in 32 villages of 13 districts. In May, solar panels were affixed on the roof of five of them, enabling them to operate 24×7
Earlier, noisy diesel generator would power the clinics’ equipment. While their engine still runs on diesel, all other power requirements are met by the solar panels. Along with lights, they also power a 50-litre refrigerator to store vaccines. The solar panels can give uninterrupted power supply during health camps and night stay for the medical team.
Nath said solar power has made their life a lot easier. For example, he said if the diesel generator would stop working earlier, they’d scramble to get it fixed urgently, lest vaccines stored in the refrigerator got ruined. He said night services were particularly difficult without electricity. With them switching to solar power, he said not only have their operations become hassle-free, but their reach is also increasing.
Jodumoni Bora, a member of the boat crew, said earlier they would spend Rs8,000 every month on the generator, but now the solar panels generate 3kW of energy every day and give six hours of backup.
Fazle Illahi, general manager, Envo Business Solutions, told FactorDaily the main motive behind powering these boats with solar energy was to keep the clinic operational 24×7. “To render the services of OPD, laboratory, carrying vaccines to the far-flung areas, uninterrupted power supply is needed. And even for the team of the boat clinic,” he said.
These floating clinics treat 18,000-20,000 people every month and have helped more than 15 lakh people till March 2015.