DhakaTribune
Thursday August 17, 2017 10:01 AM

Solar-powered irrigation revolutionising Bangladeshi agriculture

Solar-powered irrigation revolutionising Bangladeshi agriculture

About 1.5 million conventional pumps can be replaced by solar pumps. Each solar pump can replace four to five diesel-run pumps and can cover more than 60 bighas of land

Only last year, farmers from the border village of Haibatpur in Jhenaidah had to spend Tk2,000 for irrigating each bigha – one-third of an acre – of land with conventional diesel or electric water pumps every season. But things changed when they used solar-powered water pumps – the costs were cut down by nearly three-fourths.

“I never imagined that I would be able to irrigate without using electric or diesel-run water pumps. The solar-powered irrigation system has cut the production cost down by more than 50%,” Shakhawat Ullah, a farmer in Haibatpur, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Shakhawat says he earns about Tk1 lakh on an average annually from his six-bigha plot by cultivating multiple crops. He expects his earning to go up by 50% this year as the production cost came down, thanks to the new water pumps.

In March, BASE Technologies Ltd, in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), launched Solar Irrigation Project in the village at the cost of Tk20 lakh. It was a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative and part of BASE’s sustainable agricultural development programme.

The 7.5 horsepower solar pump can irrigate 30 bighas. About 100 farmers are reaping direct benefits of the project.

Farmers of Haibatpur Krishi Unnayan Samabay Samity (agricultural development cooperative society) say they hope to have a good harvest in the coming winter, which is practically a dry season in the region.

The solar-powered pump can supply up to 70,000 litres of water every day. It has substantially reduced the total irrigation cost of the farmers from Tk1,000 to less than Tk350 per session.

“With proper expertise, efficient solar irrigation systems can be developed to deliver water to even the most difficult irrigation terrains or locations in the country,” said a senior official of BASE Technologies Ltd.

According to the World Bank, 1,340,000 diesel pumps and 270,000 electric pumps are used for irrigation. Every year, diesel pumps consume one million tons of diesel costing $900 million.

Enamul Karim Pavel, head of renewable energy department of Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL), said one of the most feasible forms of renewable energy can be availed through solar-powered irrigation pumps.

Haibatpur agriculture development cooperative society members said diesel-run pumps were cheaper than solar-powered ones, but their operating costs were quite high and depended largely on diesel prices.

“Solar-powered pumps, on the other hand, are relatively expensive but the source of energy is free, and there is no other operating costs except the maintenance,” said Mofijul Haque, president of the cooperative.

Enamul Karim noted that the solar-powered irrigation system had a high potential value in terms of sustainability benefits to agronomy.

“With solar power, we can easily decrease dependency on fossil fuel,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

According to him, about 1.5 million conventional pumps can be replaced by solar pumps. Each solar pump can replace four to five diesel-run pumps and can cover more than 60 bighas of land, he said.

“Using an independent and alternative energy system can be a solution for the farmers as solar power is one of the best climate change adaptation and mitigation measure in agriculture,” he added.

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