A group of women in Kazakhstan demonstrates the benefits of solar water heating to their community. “Talkhyz Youth EcoClub” has developed several solar water demonstration sites, including at a popular nature reserve. This project drives a switch away from fossil-fuel-based water heating, in the process saving women money and time.
People in the town of Talgar, which is tucked against a mountain range in the Kazakh Himalayas, mostly burn coal or firewood to heat water during the cold season – which lasts eight or nine months in a year. This emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Furthermore, burning coal makes a cloud of black smog, which constantly hangs over the city. Use of firewood also drives deforestation along the Talgar riverbank, as well as in nearby parks and groves.
With support from the GEF Small Grants Programme, women of the nearby Akku village established solar water heating systems at various sites to demonstrate to the people of Talgar how accessible the technology can be. Two public sites included at the Talkhiz Ecoclub building and the office of the Almaty Reserve, which receives thousands of visitors every year. Two household sites were also established to gather data and test for potential problems, in order to share lessons learned.
The project has a strong publicity aspect, including promotional materials like booklets and brochures detailing how solar water heating works. It also has local television programs on how to apply solar water heating technology. The effort provides technical support for solar water heating systems, including installation, maintenance, and repair. The project’s goal is to provide all the information people need to replicate the activity in their own homes.
Helping the planet
Installation of the four solar water heating systems has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 20 tons per year, and more emissions reductions can be expected as the technology catches on in the region. Less burning of coal and firewood also prevents air pollution, which could diminish that cloud of black smog that hangs over the valley during the cold season. A switch to solar water heating also diminishes the cutting of trees, which preserves forests and other wooded areas.
People with solar hot water heaters can enjoy hot water for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and so on. In particular women, since they carry out more of this kind of work. They also save time, labor, and money by not using water heaters that burn wood or coal. The entire town benefits from cleaner air, which prevents respiratory health problems. Preserving the environment in the eco-reserve assures that tourists keep coming, and contribute to the local economy.
Numerous villages in the region have the same problem, and many people have shown interest in the technology. The plans are to address price concerns by providing them with figures reflecting the cost-effectiveness of using such technology. People who have only “heard something” about solar water heating, or didn’t know anything about it before, now have the chance to come and see how it works, and become convinced to adopt the technology.
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