Aussie solar lamps light the way for flood victims

By Jenna Hanson 15 March 2012
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Australians have developed a low-cost solar light to help people in natural disasters like the Pakistan floods.

A SOLAR-POWERED LIGHT created by a Melbourne-based company is being used to light up the night for flood victims in Pakistan.

Made entirely from environmentally responsible and recyclable materials, the Mandarin Ultra is an ultra-bright solar light that has been made with the developing world as its target market – with a price tag to match – just under $10.

 “The solar lights transform life in the camps. Children can read, and women and children can move around the camps more safely at night,” says Shane Thatcher, the chairman and CEO of the company, illumination.

Solar lights helping the developing world

More than one billion people rely on kerosene lamps or candles to bring light to their homes at night, which is both costly and dangerous. Kerosene costs roughly a third of the income of families in these developing areas, which is less than a dollar a day in some places.

Shane says that cost is only one of the problems with kerosene, as “the lanterns often start fires” and it gets worse, with kerosene giving off toxic fumes that cause respiratory or eye ailments and cancer.

But kerosene also has a cost for the environment – it releases nasty greenhouse gases and, in some cases, the high cost of the kerosene forces people to burn wood, which puts pressure on forest resources and reducing biodiversity.

The Mandarin Ultra is a water-resistant and tough little solar light. It uses 12 super bright LEDs to create a powerful light source that can last up to eight hours when fully charged.

Illumination additionally set up a complex accreditation program to generate carbon credits with the each unit sold and used. These credits are the reason the light has such an affordable price tag. “We created this light for the billion people who live off the grid and survive on less than a dollar a day,” says Shane.

Pakistan flood refugees get solar lights

Pakistan was hit by some of the worst floods in recorded history in 2010, with about one-fifth of the country’s land mass underwater and affecting around 20 million people. This was made worse when, in 2011, heavy rains fell on Pakistan once again, leaving about 200,000 people homeless.

The southern Sindh province was hit the worst in the 2011 floods, leaving people stranded and homeless. But for the people of this province, a little bit of light has been shone on their lives by the donation of 80,000 lights to the devastated people in the area.

The governments of Britain, the USA, Japan and the EU have all bought the new lights and supplied them to refugees through the International Organisation for Migration. Illumination has also supplied these solar lights to people in other devastated area, including the victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan and the refugees in Liberia.