REB to sell 2000 solar irrigation pumps to marginal farmers

To help get over a major problem of environmental degradation and boost agriculture-based economy, the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) is planning to sell 2,000 environment-friendly solar irrigation pumps to marginal farmers. The pumps will be sold at 70 percent price of the project cost, and under a 10-year installment facility. Females and those farmers keen to refrain from using diesel-based pumps, will get priority.

In a bid to implement the plan smoothly, a tender was floated on August 27 last for the first phase of sale. Under the phase, some 355 solar irrigation pumps will be installed. The interested bidders will have to submit their tender documents within October 10. Tenders for the rest four phases will be floated this month as all pumps will be installed by 2020, BREB officials said.

BREB Chairmen Major General Moin Uddin (Retd) said “Under the instruction of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we will install 2000 solar irrigation pumps with a total capacity of 19 megawatt. “In addition to irrigation, the farmers will use it to supply drinking water, in husking mills and others purposes where electricity is needed. Besides, the excess of unused electricity can be sold to the national grid,” he said. Moin Uddin also said “It’s a pilot project. We have a plan to expand the uses of solar system in future.”

According to a BREB official, the Asian Development Bank, the Bangladesh government and the BREB will finance the project titled ‘Solar Photovoltaic Pumping for Agricultural Irrigation’. The farmer-friendly project will be implemented through 10 Palli Bidyut Samities in Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Bagura, Naogaon, Gopalganj, Faridpur, Madaripur, Cumilla and Feni districts.

Project director Mohammad Sakil Ibne Sayeed told the Bangladesh Post, the project will benefit the marginal poor farmers as the entrepreneurs have to pay around 70 percent of the total project cost. An entrepreneur is to make 15 percent down payment while the rest amount can be paid in 10 years availing a simple-term loan at low interest rate.

Sakil also said “We have already created awareness among the farmers by using local dish network, Facebook, discussion and other ways. We have got huge response from the farmers. Now we have floated a tender for the Bagura Pally Biddyut Samity. After completion of tender process, the main work will start soon.”

‘It will also help to meet diverse energy demands, improve livelihoods because of meagre pollution, and result in reduction of diesel use for irrigation and other agricultural activities,’ he added. Sakil continued, solar pumps can provide irrigation water for more than 20 years, and run on sunlight. That is why there is no fuel cost. The BREB official said, the pump capacity will be 2.2KW to 11KW, which will irrigate 18 bighas to 109 bighas of land.

If an entrepreneur wants to install a 2.2KW solar pump, he will require around one ‘sathok’ of land for installation of the solar system, with a capacity of irrigating 18 to 31 bighas of land. The total value of the solar irrigation system would be around Taka 6.61 lakh. Of the amount, the entrepreneur will have to pay Taka 4.65 lakh. Initially he has to pay around Taka 70 thousand as down payment. The rest of the amount Taka 3.95 lakh with operational and maintenance cost will have to be paid in 10 years. An installment of taka 39 thousand is required to be paid each year. The entrepreneur will be able to earn Tk 54,000 to 93,000 every year and Tk 5,40,000 to 9,30,000 in 10 years. After the expiry of 10-year period the farmer or entrepreneurs will be owner of the pump and he can use it for 10-15 years more.

According to the BREB, there are about 14 lakh diesel-operated and 3 lakh electric pumps in the country. Electricity is needed to run the electric powered pumps. The government is giving subsidies of Taka 75 to 80 crore on diesel for irrigation. Still, during the agricultural season, diesel deficit is artificially created, which leads to soaring price of diesel locally.

On the other hand, 310 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted annually due to diesel-powered pumps. The solar irrigation pump will save electricity and diesel costs in addition to protecting the environment. Power division sources said, still the irrigation costs of farmers are considerably high. At present, 43 percent of the cost of agriculture is spent for irrigation. Solar irrigation pump will need less than one fourth the cost needed for diesel pump. Besides, it can also prevent soil and environmental damage. So, the initiative has been taken to increase the use of solar irrigation pump instead of diesel pump.

The solar pump is becoming increasingly popular for low-cost of irrigation. Solar irrigation pump is boosting the prospects of agriculture economy as well as environmental protection. The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has initiated the process of installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps in the next seven years.

According to sources, the government wants to increase the use of environment-friendly renewable power and replace about 17 lakh electric and diesel-operated pumps with alternate solar pumps. As per a report of the World Bank, solar irrigation pumps have improved the quality of life of farmers in Bangladesh, and they now have more time to concentrate on other productive purposes. With the extra money that the pumps have saved, many are buying other farming equipment, cattle and many more.