Friday, 28 November 2014

Without power: Mumbai’s pavement dwellers

If you can read this, you’re not affected. For most urban dwellers electricity is available at the flick of a switch, to power our numerous appliances from our coffee machines to our computers and TVs, but not for all: many of the urban poor still have no access to electricity although the power cables are literally just two meters above their heads.

Pavement Dwellers at Goregaon Western Express HIghway

In the new Energy Justice program of SPARC we have just recently started a survey in order to better understand the needs and problems of the urban poor related to energy. Last week we have been at a settlement of pavement dwellers next to the Western Express Highway in Goregaon, Mumbai who live there for at least the last 10 years. Although all of the households do not have access to electricity at all, they have energy expenditures between 300 and 750 Rupees per month just to be able to illuminate their homes in the evening with some candles and to charge their cell phones at the next kiosk. This costs them every day between 10-15 Rupees.   


Most of the children go to school, but in the evenings 

they have to study  under the street light.

It was hard to believe for us but most of the households have to manage a living in Mumbai with less than a Dollar per day per capita, some of them even with half a dollar. It’s no wonder then that these households seek to avoid spending any money where it is not absolutely necessary and therefore cook their meals on traditional three-stone-stoves. Because most of the men work as casual laborers and are out of the house, it is the task of the women to collect the wood which lasts between 1 and 2 hours every day. Cooking with open fire or on three stones is not only time intensive but also health threatening because of the smoke and causes respiratory diseases. And this is not done with a cough – the Worlds Health Organization (WHO) estimates that annually more than 4 million people die because of cooking with solid fuels of which 50% are children below the age of 5. 

We have started our new Energy Justice program in order to develop jointly with the urban poor solutions that will provide them with a better access to modern energy and also reduces the costs for them. We will keep you updated here about the further development of this project.

Author : Vincent Moeller is working for SPARC as an advisor on Renewable Energy and Climate Change since June 2014.