Lamps, water pumps and filtration systems are an increasingly common sight in the camps of Cox’s Bazar with more extensive off-grid home systems having been brought along the refugee trail by some homeowners fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district depend on solar systems to light their homes, get drinking water, and power health facilities.
Almost a million Rohingya live at the Kutupalong camp after fleeing from Rakhine state in the face of atrocities by the army of Myanmar in 2017.
Solar home systems (SHS’) have been provided by the Bangladeshi government and various international non-governmental and humanitarian organizations to light the homes of the refugees and solar also powers water pumps and filtration systems, to further improve living standards.
While there is electricity grid coverage in areas near the camp, the refugee accommodation is not connected. One international aid agency official has said the technology is familiar to many of the Rohingya as people were found carrying SHS’ salvaged from Rakhine state. Mohammad Shamsud Douza, additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, confirmed some residents of the camp had installed solar home systems they arrived with.
The Switzerland-based International Organization for Migration has equipped 27 facilities across the camps with solar, including at its health centers, female safe spaces, distribution points, offices, and water supply networks, according to a report by the UN-related organization. The report highlighted the savings made as a result, giving the example of the $200 daily fuel bill to power diesel generators for two of its health centers.
UAE humanitarian program Beyond2020 has said it will deploy solar lighting systems for almost 4,500 people at the Kutupalong camp and French non-profit Electricians Without Borders (EWB) will install the devices according to a press statement from the Emirati entity. The EWB has previously fitted 240 solar home systems and 640 solar lamps at the camp.
Rohingya at the newly built refugee camp in Bhasan Char, an island in the Hatiya sub-district of Noakhali, have also benefited from solar systems installed to supplement diesel power generation.
Bangladesh boasts around 6 million off-grid solar home systems with a total generation capacity of 262 MW and the World Bank has estimated the government installation drive has enabled 20 million Bangladeshis to access electricity.