Two years since Bihar’s ambitious solar streetlight project, village roads still engulfed in darkness

Only 20% of the target has been met with only few months left for the deadline, shows official data
Photo for representation: iStock
Photo for representation: iStock

The much-publicised solar street light scheme to promote green energy in Bihar has seen poor implementation since it was introduced two years ago. To date, solar street light has been installed in only 20 per cent of the targeted areas.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had announced in September 2022 while launching the ambitious Mukhyamantri Gramin Solar Street Light Scheme that all the village streets would be illuminated at night in the next two years, with 10 solar lights installed in each ward. This, he had claimed, will change the face of rural areas.

But the reality is quite different since as of May 17, 2024, most streets in the thousands of villages across the eastern state still remain engulfed in darkness during nighttime, to the dismay of the villagers.

The scheme is part of Kumar’s dream project Jal Jeevan Haryali Abhiyan, which was launched with the aim to minimise effects of climate change.

So far, only 134,239 solar street lights have been installed in the 13,496 wards of the 3,521 panchayats under 377 blocks in the state’s 38 districts, according to data available on the official digital platform of Bihar Panchayati Raj Department, Panchayat Nischay Soft. It is far behind the target as 679,699 solar street lights.

Initially, it was decided that more than a million solar street lights will be installed in 1,109,647 wards of over 8,000 Gram Panchayats across the state.

The implementation of the scheme has been sluggish despite repeated directives by the state chief secretary and principal secretary of concerned departments to private agencies that were hired to carry out the work.

The departments have directed concerned officials to speed up installation of solar street lights in those districts where less than 15 per cent of the target has been achieved. An online monitoring arrangement has been made for the work to ensure functioning and proper maintenance of the solar street lights, the officials added. 

Bihar Renewable Energy Development Agency of the state government has initiated a process to select new private agencies to complete the work within the stipulated time. 

The scheme was started with financial assistance from the Centre under the 15th Finance Commission to boost basic infrastructure in rural areas, according to department officials. The state government had received Rs 1,100 crore, a portion of which was utilised for installing solar street lights.

Early this year, the principal secretary of the state energy department, Sanjeev Hans, said Bihar has an investment potential of Rs 23,886 crore in the renewable energy sector. Last month, the state government had invited bids for 200 MW rooftop solar power capacity.

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