Solar powered water pumps run on electricity generated after its absorption by photovoltaic panels. The panels collect the radiated thermal energy from the sun and convert it to electricity that powers the pumps for water extraction. This technology is extremely viable for regions that receive high temperatures and consistent sunlight (Ahmed and Anderson 1995). Sudan is one of the countries on the solar belt zone where radiation of the sun is the strongest.
UNDP took the initiative to install solar powered pumps within the context of peace building. UNDP has implemented C2SP (Community Security and Stabilization Programme) in 6 states in Sudan. The aim of C2SP is to build peace in communities and strengthen their resilience to conflict. Scarcity of water in Sudan is known to cause conflict between and within communities. Added to this is the increased pressure on water resources due to a high presence of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) within communities.
The contribution of Canada, Japan, Italy and Spain towards C2SP has helped to propel C2SP interventions in Sudan. UNDP with with the government, NGOs and IPs (implementing partners) has installed solar powered water pumps in El Gari in Blue Nile Sate, Um Dukhon in Central Darfur and Tandalti in West Darfur, Diling and Abbasiya in South Kordofan, Abu Jebayha and Abu Kershola in West Kordofan and El Rahad in North Kordofan. Upcoming projects will focus on Azaza in Blue Nile state, Bulbul Alnagara in South Darfur and Dindero in Blue Nile. In total, 200,000 people from 8 localities have benefited from a steady supply of water.
The benefits of solar water pumps
Water scarcity and pressure on water resources have been highlighted as sources of conflict between tribes, pastoralists, communities and famers (UNDP and UNEP 2013). A steady supply of water from the pumps creates peace and encourages positive interaction between tribes. Farmers in Tandalti were content as they got a consistent supply of water from the pump for irrigation and livestock. Over 100 farmers benefited as the pipeline extended 1000 meters to cover the plots starting from the pump. The supply of water supported the development of businesses centered on poultry. However, the pressure on water resources increased in El Gari due to a large influx of IDPs, 9,200 in a community of 13,000. As a mitigation measure, the efficient solar pumps are able to provide water for all.
Kaltoma Jakoon, an IDP woman from El Gari recounted her tiresome experience in fetching water. She had to summon her children and relatives to fetch water, and they lost two-thirds of the day in collecting water. Previously her family was involved in disputes with the host community and they were nervous of their encounters with animal herders. Kaltoma stated that her family’s life improved after the pump was lodged in their village.
The technology is ideal for Sudan as the country receives between 8-11 hours of sunlight on average everyday (Omer 2001). The solar pumps harvest this energy in a sustainable manner. In contrast, diesel powered pumps are costlier as they require a consistent supply of diesel. This can be expensive in the long run and leaves the community susceptible to price hikes of diesel. Also, pumps are useful because they bring access to water to regions not connected to the national grid and where electricity provision is minimal.
The distribution of water and maintenance is managed by WMCs (Water Management Committees). The WMC decides fees for the water and is responsible for liasing with local IPs, the rural water corporation and the local administration for maintenance issues. The profits go to the local water corporation who are the caretakers and the security guard at the pump. The WMC keeps aside a fund solely for maintenance if required. In Hay Elmak, the WMC provided free water to vulnerable families, reduced water charges for community functions, provided water to the school and mosque. The head of the WMC highlighted that daily profits ranged between 600-800 Sudanese pounds. This money was used for constructing classrooms in the school, supporting the youth center, operating literacy classes and helping university students.
Changes noticed after the installation of Solar Water Pumps
In many villages like Bulbul Alnagara, women have the greatest burden, as they are responsible for household chores and fetching water. The scarcity of water leads them to travel long distances on foot to fetch water. The installation of the pumps leads to water being extracted faster, saving time for women, who don’t have to walk long distances or wait in crowded lines. The solar pumps save the energy of people to a great extent. Hand-held pumps are energy intensive and often tire people, more so due to soaring temperatures. The solar pumps require little supervision and minimal human effort to operate. This saved energy can be devoted to other productive activities.
Diesel pumps, which were used for water extraction before the installation of solar pumps, are a heavy polluter with large CO2 emissions. In contrast, solar powered pumps extract water with zero carbon emissions coupled with no noise pollution. In El Gari the diesel pumps were contaminating the water with chemicals and affecting the surrounding vegetation. In terms of efficiency, solar pumps provide 8,400 liters of water per hour in the five localities. This is economical compared to diesel pumps that produced 7,500 liters of water per hour, using 10.5 liters of diesel for operation. Diesel pumps were not reliable, as water supply fluctuated but with solar water pumps, water is supplied consistently.
Solar water pumps are a safer option in comparison to hafeers and hand-dug wells. The hand-dug wells were shallow, hence susceptible to contamination. Many villages relied on hafeers for water collection. A hafeer is a reservoir that stores rainwater gathered from streams. It is used as a source of water in rural areas for agriculture. In many cases humans and animals were sharing the water in hafeers, due to the lack of any other viable option. The water in the hafeers is not potable for humans, and is only suitable for livestock. This led to diarrhea and abdomen related diseases. In stark contrast, solar water pumps are cleaner as the water is extracted from a deeper level, keeping it in a pristine condition.
Contribution towards achieving SDGs
The solar water pumps contribute to four SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals):
Goal 3- Good health and well being- communities reported the presence of water borne diseases from open sources. In contrast the water from the pumps is potable for humans and livestock.
Goal 6- Clean water and sanitation- water quality significantly increases as solar powered pumps extract from a deeper level.
Goal 7- Affordable and clean energy- solar pumps have a high initial cost, but function with low maintenance. Moreover, they have no adverse effect on the environment like diesel-powered pumps.
Goal 12- Responsible consumption and production- the pumps are managed by WMCs. The members ensure that water is used in a sustainable manner by preventing over-usage.
The solar powered pumps contribute to a small extent to other SDGs such as goal 8- decent work and economic growth, goal 9- industry, innovation and infrastructure, goal 11- sustainable cities and communities and goal 13- climate action.
The application of solar water pumps in rural areas of Sudan has contributed to peace in communities. The pumps have positive spillover effects:
Sudan is developing at a fast pace, and the application of solar pumps will be ideal for the country. Moreover, Sudan’s energy needs are rising and solar pumps would meet these needs in a sustainable manner.
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12 December 2017