Two years ago, the remote mountain village of Huai Kra Thing had no electricity. Home to about 200 of the Karen people, a long-oppressed minority forced to flee Burma, the village was largely cut off from the world.
Enter the Border Green Energy Team, a project of the Bangkok-based nonprofit Palang Thai, which brings much-needed electricity to refugee camps and other isolated areas along the Thai-Burma border. BGET organized a group of 40 volunteers, who descended on Huai Kra Thing and installed a microhydropower system.
The volunteers included students and teachers from the United States, members of Taiwanese nongovernmental organizations, and nearby villagers. They spent a week hauling construction material and equipment through thick jungle and up a mountain to a waterfall 700 meters above the village. They used sandbags to dam up a pool at the waterfall’s base. They then laid PVC piping from the pool to a turbine 172 meters below, engineering the flow to 30 liters per second. Another section of piping routed the used water back into the brook below. They also set up utility poles to transport the electricity, via cables, to the village below.
The finished system now furnishes 3 kilowatts of power to a medical clinic, a primary school, two churches, and a couple of meeting halls in the village. Some homes also have enough electricity to run TVs and basic lighting.
For the locals, having access to electricity is vitally important, says Salinee Tavaranan, BGET’s project director. ”It helps them to improve their lives by improving education, giving light, and providing electricity to the clinic, so that they can perform operations and treat people even at night. Simple things like this can save lives.”
About the Author
Dean Adams is a journalist and television producer based in Bangkok. He covers social issues and political affairs for the international cable network France 24.