Babu Raja Shrestha does not give up easily. Nearly a decade ago, when he started his solar tuki (lamp) project, everybody told him to drop the idea. It was not feasible they said, especially in the rural communities where he wanted to replace kerosene lamps with solar tukis.
"I was positive this idea would work," says Shrestha, who installed his first Solar Home System in Pulimarang VDC of Tanahu. Today, Babu and his Centre for Renewable Energy project have been able to reach 80,000 households in 72 districts. He says, "There is more demand now as people realise this is cheaper than kerosene."
Babu is now steering a 'light for all' campaign to completely eradicate the use of kerosene-based tuki. Nearly 2.4 million of the country's population still do not have electricity at home; they burn about Rs 8.1 million worth of kerosene every day just to light their lamps. "We have to discourage the use of kerosene tukis in our country," says Babu, who adds that he won't rest until all non-electrified homes have solar lamps.
Babu graduated as an aeronautical engineer from Russia and worked in Germany. He returned to Nepal from Japan in 1989 when the controversy of the Arun hydropower project was at its peak. Babu has applied his engineering skills to a range of environmental protection initiatives. Besides bringing solar electricity to thousands of homes in villages, he also helped design a three-wheeled electric-powered vehicle for use on Kathmandu's streets as part of an initiative to combat pollution caused by gas-powered vehicles.
Babu's involvement in solid waste management began in 1998 when he was asked to rescue the city of Biratnagar from a mismanaged waste disposal plan. His initiative has encouraged citizens' participation in waste clean up and reduction efforts. For his remarkable achievement in waste management, Babu was awarded an Ashoka Fellowship to continue his work towards promoting a clean environment.