Publication Date

2010

Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Kanthie Athukorala

Abstract

Those living without electricity in India constitute nearly 40% of the 1.6 billion

people worldwide. Enhancing quality of life in a sustainable manner is a critical issue for a country with such a huge population. Throughout the country, a slow-moving trend has been to provide solar electrification systems – via subsidies and technical support – to rural and remote communities who never had electricity before. Meanwhile, the country’s growing middle and upper classes have embraced globalization, modernization and consumerism, flaunting new wealth before the masses and consuming in disproportion. Solar electricity can offer opportunity to countries like India to develop in a more sustainable way without the environmental and social impact similar to that of highincome

countries. It is also possible that a technological fix will only enable increasing

consumption to levels that are unsustainable.

This paper explores the effects and impacts experienced after rural and/or remote households have been equipped with a seemingly limitless and natural source of energy. It is a qualitative inquiry into the changes, both real and perceived, in the areas of health, economic status, education and gender roles of low-consuming, non-Western rural communities. The purpose is to provide a case study for long-term analysis regarding the benefits and detriments of employing a highly popular and non-political tactic rather than an involved strategy to promote development that is truly sustainable. The study is comprised of information gathered from eight semi-structured interviews in which the household was the unit of analysis. The study found that rural solar electrification does improve quality of life as well as increase consumption behaviors. Such results are also affected by a number of preexisting factors such as income, number of family members and ages, ambitions and external environment.

Disciplines

Other Earth Sciences | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences

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