Some 40,000 more houses in remote areas of three hill districts – Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban – will come under electricity coverage by 2021 through the installation of solar panels.
The government has taken the initiative as it is not possible to provide the disadvantaged people with power connection from the national grid for now, said officials of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Development Board.
It would not even be possible to supply grid power to the villages for the next 20-25 years, said the authorities concerned.
According to the project proposal of the CHT Development Board, solar home systems with the capacity of producing 100 kilowatts of power each, will be installed at the houses under a new project titled "Installation of Solar Photovoltaic System for Supply of Electricity to Remote Areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Region."
Besides, some 2,500 neighbourhoods, hostels, orphanages, community centres and religious institutions will get power connection by 2022 from the solar home systems with 320 kilowatt capacity each.
Once the CHT Development Board implements the project – involving an estimated cost of Tk218 crore – by 2023, the hill districts will get a supply of 4.80 megawatts of solar power per day.
Earlier, the first phase of the project, named "Power Supply through Installation of Solar Panels in CHT Remote Areas," was completed in June 2019.
Some 10,890 families got power connections through solar home systems under the first phase, said Dr Prakash Kanti Chowdhury, member of the CHT Development Board.
Additionally, electricity was supplied to various educational and religious institutions through 2,800 community solar home systems.
The number of beneficiaries has been increased under the new project, he added.
The project proposal has already been sent to the Planning Commission for evaluation which is now at the final stage after its scrutiny.
It will soon be placed before a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council for approval.
People of indigenous communities in the hill districts mainly depend on Jhum cultivation, also known as shifting cultivation, for livelihood.
They will get solar home systems free of cost through programmes like Test Relief or Food for Work (Kajer Binimoye Khadyo), according to the project proposal.
The CHT region has only 5 percent of cultivable plain land. The communication system in the region is very poor and time-consuming. That is why this part of the country remains behind in terms of modernisation.
CHT Development Board officials said solar power is the best way for electrification in the region, which is also reliable, clean and environment-friendly.
Meanwhile, under this project, the names of 12 government officials have been proposed for a tour to China or South Korea to garner knowledge on the power production process with solar systems.