UNHCR to solarise 125 educational, health facilities

Published June 5, 2024
Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Netherlands Hajo Provo Kluit speaks at the panel discussion on ‘Land Restoration, desertification and drought resilience’ at the Pakistan Environmental Awards and Conference at the PNCA in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Netherlands Hajo Provo Kluit speaks at the panel discussion on ‘Land Restoration, desertification and drought resilience’ at the Pakistan Environmental Awards and Conference at the PNCA in Islamabad on Tuesday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: In a plan to reduce carbon emissions on World Environment Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has decided to solarise 125 educational and health facilities across Pakistan this year, hoping to reduce 5,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the UN body said that these solar systems would provide clean and sustainable energy, benefiting refugees and their hosting communities. It will solarise 103 girls and boys schools, 16 public health facilities, four vocational training centres along with other critical community infrastructure.

According to the UNHCR, the impact of its earlier investment in solarisation of the infrastructure is already being felt, with teachers reporting an increase in school attendance, including of girls, as well as improving the overall learning environment.

“Having a fan and lights at the school means I can concentrate on my learning,” said Amina, a refugee child in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “I’ve encouraged other girls in my community to join me, to spend evenings in the classroom environment to finish our homework after the school day ends, now that it is cool.”

34,000 solar home systems to be distributed in KP, Balochistan refugee villages

The statement said UNHCR would also distribute and install more than 34,000 solar home systems in refugee villages in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. These solar home systems, which are portable solar kits, can power three lights and a fan as well as charge a mobile phone. They would have a transformative impact on families who currently have no access to electricity.

It may be noted that more than 300 solar streetlights had also already been installed in a number of remote refugee villages, transforming security and social interactions among refugees of all age groups, especially women and girls. An expansion of the solar streetlight activities would also take place in other remote and isolated refugee villages and their hosting areas, the statement said, adding that the initiative would provide much-needed safety during nighttime hours, allowing studying and communal activities such as sports and social gatherings to take place long after the sun has set.

UNHCR said these activities were complemented by dedicated vocational training on solar repair and maintenance for men and women, community awareness on efficient use of energy resources and environmental protection, as well as the planting of some 74,000 trees in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

“Given climate change, it is important to find clean energy solutions to address the growing energy needs in the country while mitigating the environmental impact,” said Philippa Candler, UNHCR’s Representative in Pakistan. “Through such initiatives, UNHCR is not only improving access to essential services but also contributing to efforts to fight climate change.”

“Firmly on the frontlines of the climate emergency, with waves of concurrent drought and flooding threatening the social, environmental and economic development of the country, Pakistan required bolstered international support and solidarity,” the statement added.

Eco-friendly practices

In celebration of World Environment Day, 20 organisations from around the country were recognised for their efforts in promoting sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. A statement issued said that they were awarded with the newly instituted ‘Pakistan Environmental Awards’ aimed at recognising and appreciating the best environmental practices.

The award winners included National Bank of Pakistan, Bank of Punjab, Fauji Cement Company Ltd, Bestway Cement Ltd, Giga Group, Stary Hydro, Balochistan Rural Support Programme, Snow Leopard Foundation, Murree Brewery, PTV World Morning Show, and Centre for Climate Diplomacy, Pak-EPA, Mira Hydro, and Laraib Hydro Power.

Chief Guest Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, said: “As we celebrate World Environment Day 2024, I am reminded of the immense beauty and richness of our natural heritage here in Pakistan. Meanwhile, we cannot forget the havoc that we have wreaked on our natural resources. We need to adopt best practices and put every effort into the restoration of nature.”

Belgian Ambassador Charles Delogne said: “Climate change is a reality and people know it better in Pakistan than elsewhere. But this concept must not lead to a lack of responsibility. The environment is everybody’s business, and my field visits to Pakistan have shown that there is still a lot to be done, especially in waste management, air pollution control and waterways management.”

World Environment Day, established by the United Nations in 1972, is celebrated on June 5. It was the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Over the years, it has grown to be a global platform for public outreach, with participation from over 150 countries.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2024

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