Solar-powered irrigation improves farming

Solar-powered irrigation improves farming
The solar irrigation system holds huge potential in Bangladesh and can provide sustainable solutions without requiring any fuel, reduce carbon emission and save millions in foreign currency, according to Infrastructure Development Company Ltd (IDCOL). 

IDCOL issued a statement after carrying out an impact assessment on its pilot project undertaken in 2013 in some northern districts.

Being a country located in tropical delta, irrigation plays a vital role in Bangladesh's agriculture and accounts for about 43 percent of the cost for cultivation.

Presently, the country has 1.34 million diesel pumps and 0.27 million electric pumps. The diesel-run pumps consume at least 1 million tonnes of diesel worth $900 million per year, with the government providing huge subsidy to keep its price affordable for farmers.

The electricity-run pumps consume about 1,500-megawatt of power.

In this backdrop, solar irrigation can provide sustainable irrigation solutions without requiring any fuel, said IDCOL in a statement. 

IDCOL initiated a pilot project in 2013 with a target to install 1,500 solar irrigation pumps by 2018. Later, identifying the prospects of solar irrigation pumps and its acceptance among farmers, the goal was revised to 50,000 by 2025 which will replace around a quarter million diesel-run pumps.

Notably, solar pumps being installed under the IDCOL Solar Irrigation Programme are of larger capacity and each pump can replace four to five conventional diesel-run pumps, said Mahmood Malik, executive director of IDCOL, in the statement.

So far, IDCOL has approved 1,119 solar irrigation pumps, with 925 of them already operational and the rest under construction. The pumps can supply up to 15 lakh to 20 lakh litres of water daily, which can irrigate 3,300 decimals of land for paddy and 1,815 decimals of land for vegetables each season.

In terms of costs, a farmer can irrigate a bigha of land at Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000, down by Tk 500 to Tk 1,800 now being spent under existing methods.

“With the solar irrigation pumps in place, we can now irrigate our lands without any hassle and make more profit than before,” said Abdul Mazid, a farmer in Rangpur district.

Mazid said earlier they had to wait for days to get diesel for running their pumps for irrigation.

IDCOL said the solar irrigation system can't only reduce carbon emission but can save millions in foreign currency.  

Given the immense potential of the solar irrigation, the IDCOL Programme aims to replace diesel-based systems with solar irrigation pumps in off-grid areas where there are possibilities to produce three types of crops throughout the year.

IDCOL has put in place arrangements to engage private sector sponsors such as private limited companies, microfinance institutions, and NGOs in the programme.

The private sector investor needs to invest only 15 percent of the project cost as equity and IDCOL provides the rest 50 percent as grant and 35 percent as soft loan with an interest rate of only 6 percent and 10 years as tenure.
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