By Julia Hawkins, Ashden PR and Digital Media Manager
The collapse of three main power grids in India earlier this week created traffic chaos, trapped miners underground, left bodies half-cremated, stymied commercial activity and forced those normally reliant on air-conditioning to swelter in 40°+ heat.
Given the dubious accolade of the ‘biggest ever power outage,’ the power crisis made the headlines and caused a twitter storm – this during a week where anyone in the UK at least could be forgiven for thinking that the only important events happening in the world were taking place in London's Olympic venues.
The numbers were mind-boggling: around 700 million people live in the 23 affected states – that’s some 10% of the world’s population.
Yet as Kirsten Corosec commented, the actual number of people immediately affected was far lower: only around half of the people in the affected regions are connected to the grid. For the other half, the first half of their week was no different to any other.
As Harish Hande, Founder and CEO of solar company SELCO and Ashden Award Winner pointed out: “400 million Indians today still have not seen a light bulb” – let alone used air-conditioning to cool their homes or charged their mobile phones with mains electricity.
These people use kerosene lamps to light their homes. The light created by kerosene is poor quality, which damages eyesight and makes it difficult for children to study and make progress at school and for parents to work on income-generating activities in the evening.
Kerosene also releases sulphur and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere, both of which are directly linked to lung cancer, eye infections, pneumonia, and chronic lung disease.
Kerosene is also highly flammable, creating serious fire risks in cramped homes. According to the WHO, some 4 million women suffer from severe burns from open fires and kerosene lighting each year – that’s similar to the number who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
None of the above stands a chance in hell of making the 10 o'clock news. But if that doesn’t amount to a power crisis, then I'm not really sure what does.