Tuesday, 2 April 2013


Plastic bottle, water, bleach, sun, and voila, let there be light

SHWETA SHARMA  2nd Mar 2013

A light installed inside a home in Worli, Mumbai

simple idea can definitely change your life, and the seed for such an idea can be successfully sown even in a plastic bottle. That’s exactly what the folks at Liter of Light are doing: providing a pocket-friendly technique to light homes with electricity woes. Conceptualised by My Shelter Foundation, the idea germinated in April 2011 in Manila’s poorest district, where more than 15,000 houses were lit up without using electricity. After successfully lighting homes across Peru, Colombia, and Switzerland, the project came to Hyderabad last year, and more recently to Mumbai.

It started when Dr. Sudha Mohan, an associate professor at the University of Mumbai received an e-mail from a contact at St. Gallen, Switzerland describing the project and introducing a group of students from Germany and Switzerland who were scheduled to visit Mumbai, to install a few solar bottles. Roping in a few of her students, Priyanka Bhosale, Akilesh Subramanian, and Amar Kharate, Mohan accompanied the group conducting pre-visits of slums in Mumbai, holding workshops in a few communities and installing some bottles.

“During this period, we discussed our desire to begin a Mumbai chapter, affiliated to Liter of Light, Europe. A letter of approval was then sent over, formally establishing Liter of Light, Mumbai in October last year,” says Subramanian.

The team uses everyday materials like discarded plastic bottle and water to light up homes. Each bottle can last for up to 5 years, and once fixed to the roof properly, the family does not have to worry about anything. According to the team, the project actually brings about a measurable impact as on one of their follow-up visits, the members of a house installed with the bottles reported that their electricity bill had reduced by almost 50%.

“The solar bottle is a 1.5 litre PET bottle, filled with water and liquid bleach, which is stuck to the roof of a house. A part of the bottle is above the roof, so when sunlight falls on it, water defracts the light and spreads it in the house; while the bleach simply helps in keeping the water clean, ensuring no moss or algae growth. The light thus emitted is equal to the light produced by a 55-watt electric bulb. Apart from the bottle and bleach, the major component involved in making this bottle is glue. So the bottle is stuck onto a corrugated plastic sheet and put on the roof. This is sealed shut, to ensure no water seeps in from the roof,” explains Bhosale.

For those, in whose homes the bottles are installed, the cost incurred is zero. At present, all costs are being borne by Liter of Light, which is about Rs 500. Until now, the team has successfully installed around 10-15 bottles as part of their training sessions in places like Reay Road, Worli Koliwada, Backbay and Santacruz. Though they have managed sponsorships, the team conducts collection drives for other materials like soda bottles and corrugated plastic sheets.

Also attempting to educate and empower people to undertake installations themselves and earn a livelihood, the team conducts training workshops. Currently, they have tied up with Sanskar India Foundation and LEARN, through whom they plan install in Worli and Dharavi, respectively. “The response and feedback to the project has been very encouraging. Educational institutes, NGOs and individuals have come forward offering help. We however, require more volunteers and support to be able to undertake the project on a larger scale,” says Subramanian.