…As Ministry of Energy meets PCs & Local Councils
April 5, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
In a bid to stem rural-urban migration in the country, the Ministry of Energy has revealed that it would install solar electricity in all 149 chiefdoms in the country, a move that would improve the socio-economic status of most rural inhabitants.
Mass rural-urban migration in any country cannot be unconnected to the unavailability of basic social amenities, including electricity, according to experts.
In a meeting organised by the Ministry of Energy last Saturday in Bo, southern Sierra Leone, Minister of Energy, Amb. Henry Macauley, said it was the right of everyone in the country to have equitable electricity supply, adding that the renewable energy project that President Koroma has decided to give to people in all 149 chiefdoms was a clear manifestation that he wants to cut down on rural-urban migration and boost the earnings of rural folks.
“The district headquarter towns will have to get thermal plants that will supply electricity, but the chiefdoms will have solar plants to benefit from that facility. During the installations of the solar panels to the chiefdoms, the communities should be part of it by providing labour and protecting the materials,” he said.
He also told his audience that his ministry would soon commence the installation of the second phase of fifty thousand (50,000) solar street lights in the country.
Minister Macauley noted that there were 1.3 billion people in the world that do not have access to electricity, disclosing that 600 million of those are in sub- Sahara Africa.
As the energy revolution in the country has begun, he called on all Paramount Chiefs to announce bye-laws to punish those who are in the habit of stealing solar panels, batteries, poles and others.
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He also urged that as traditional rulers passed bye-laws to fight Ebola, they should do same to tackle theft of electricity equipment.
Acting chairman, National Council of Paramount Chiefs, P.C. Kono Bundor of Gorama Kono chiefdom, said it was a good move by the government to take solar electricity to all 149 chiefdoms in the country. He noted that currently when they write letters they take them to the district headquarters to type and print, but if there is electricity they would have printers to print their letters.
“Owing to the absence of electricity in our chiefdoms, most of the administrative activities are hindered. But with this solar electricity project for us, we are happy,” he enthused.
Chief of Staff in the Office of the President, Saidu Conton-Sesay, said Sierra Leone wants to move with the changing trend in the world by providing electricity for the rural poor. He noted that when there is electricity supply in rural areas, telecommunications will be improved and people will be able to use their computers.
“The solar technology will reach where the normal thermal plants electricity is not accessed. The President has high regard for chiefs and that is why he is trying to improve their communities,” he stated.
Technical Adviser in the Ministry of Energy, Engineer Dr. Patrick Tarawalie, noted that in Sierra Leone less than two percent of the rural population has no access to electricity. He added that what the government has done by way of help was to bring together Paramount Chiefs to discuss how they could improve their communities by using renewable energy, adding that the government had also declared a duty free tax on importation of solar equipments.
“Solar energy is important to us because it will improve domestic activities, reduce the use of firewood and protect the forest. It will increase the market for solar equipments and it will help students to study at night. It will be used to pump water from a well which will protect drowning also,” he explained.
Chairman of Bo District Council, Joseph Munda Bindi, said previously electricity only benefitted people in the cities, but the advent of solar energy in rural communities would boost economic activities.
“The rural communities constitute the largest percentage of the population. The councils are more than ready to promote this project,” he said.