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Climate change is his all consuming life passion and he will tour TN soon to create awareness on the catastrophe that awaits humanity unless something is done now.
In 2020, Chetan Singh Solanki, a professor at IIT Bombay, applied for a long leave for 11 years. He also decided not to visit his home during that period. The professor then started his Energy Swaraj Yatra on a solar bus in November 2020. The bus has become his mobile home since then, and it will remain so until he completes his journey in 2030. In the wake of catastrophic climate change, this Energy Swaraj Yatra is designed to create a public movement towards adoption of 100% solar energy.
Solanki, who has led many solar projects at IIT Bombay, has been travelling across India since November 2022, and he is now touring south India. The Energy Swaraj bus has facilities for working, meeting, sleeping, cooking, washing, and training. The bus will be demonstrated after the talk at each point. It is fitted with 3.2 kW solar panels and 6 kWh of battery storage. It has a 3 kVa inverter. Lights, cooler, cookstove, TV, AC, laptop charging inside the bus are all solar-powered. The engine of the bus, however, runs on diesel.
Solanki was in Coimbatore on Thursday (March 31) and he will be touring the cities of Tamil Nadu such as Kanniyakumari, Madurai, Trichy, Chennai and Vellore from April 10 to 23. The recent IPCC report had warned that Chennai in TN will be among the top 10 most adversely impacted cities due to climate change. “Climate change is threatening not only sustainable life but the sustainability of life on the planet. We have only 7-9 years left before we reach global warming of 1.5oC (IPCC report). Therefore “drastic” and “immediate” actions are required to mitigate climate change. The solution lies in adopting Energy Swaraj or generating and consuming energy locally,” said Solanki.
Solanki said there is no rich or poor and every user of energy is his target. “Our policy makers don’t understand that 85 percent of the energy that we use comes from fossil energy. When you burn fossil energy, it releases carbon dioxide and it eventually leads to climate change. Despite the Kyoto Protocol and other international agreements, the emissions are on the rise. Each individual is responsible for this. My idea is to create awareness among people about how to use our energy sources properly,” said Solanki, who is currently touring various districts in Kerala. “The solution lies in adopting Energy Swaraj or generating and consuming energy locally,” he added.
Chetan Solanki said his Energy Swaraj Yatra got tremendous response from people in the south. “The people in the south are more progressive compared to those in the central and northern part of India. The Tamil Nadu government is very cooperative and I hope more people from the state will join me in this initiative.”
The solar bus will be reaching Kanyakumari on April 10 on its 500th day of the journey. “I am happy that we will be completing our 500th day of our tour in Kanyakumari on April 10. The whole idea of the yatra is to create awareness and then convert those into actions. More than awareness, we need action and it should be based on the law of human existence on the planet where the resources are fixed. You can’t make the planet bigger. Even science can’t do it. The same is applicable to resources as well. Modern human beings are experts in solving one problem and then creating another,” he said. “When we do centralisation, it always results in unequal distribution of resources. We need to limit our consumption and localise our production. Adopting Energy Swaraj will also help in skill development, livelihood creation, energy independence, local economy strengthening, and of course, climate change mitigation. I am here to create a public movement and establish Energy Swaraj across,” he added.
Solanki has led major solar projects including the Solar Urja Through Localization for Sustainability (SoULS), the flagship programme of IIT Bombay. Through SoULS project, he has reached 7.5 million families providing them clean light. Solanki has also been referred to as “Solar Man of India” and some people also call him “Solar Gandhi.” Following Gandhian ideals, he has coined the word ‘Energy Swaraj’ and to establish Energy Swaraj globally he has founded the Energy Swaraj Foundation (ESF). He is also a Chairman of the committee of CBSE and AICTE for solar curriculum development. Solanki has authored seven books and published more than 100 research papers internationally.
Before setting off his Energy Swaraj Yatra, Solanki had travelled across the world and he realised one thing: “We can’t blame the government for each and every thing. Governments are elected for a short period. So I decided to reach out to each individual. Forget our country, society or even climate change. Please think about our children. I am telling each parent to let their children live in a better world. When the water and air are not clean or safe, then what wealth are we going to give our children?,” he said.
Solanki said his Energy Swaraj Yatra got tremendous response from people in the south, in particular TN regarding climate change. “The people in the south are more progressive compared to those in the central and northern part of India. I am happy that we will be reaching Kanyakumari on April 10, marking the 500th day of the Energy Swaraj Yatra. The Tamil Nadu government is very cooperative and I hope more people from the state will join me in this initiative,” said Solanki.
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