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NEWS UPDATES 20 July 2010

A little power goes a long way

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Micro-generator helpss northern villagers Spending 5 million baht to build a micro-hydropower plant near Doi Inthanon is a very small outlay for a company as large as Egco Group Plc, but the returns have far exceeded expectations, according to the Bangkok Post.

The villagers of Ban Sun Din Daeng of Chiang Mai weave ethnic fabric for a living and Egco’s 5-million-baht plant now allows them to work beyond daylight hours, helping them earn more incomes and eliminating the need to exploit the forest.

The plant built by the country's second largest private power producer generates 20 kilowatts to serve the community of Ban Sun Din Daeng, where most people make a living weaving ethnic fabrics and clothing.

The payoff for the villagers has been big because they can now work beyond daylight hours. Better still for the environment, they don't have to rely on the forest as much for food and other needs.

The project has become a model for Egco, which has budgeted 30 million baht for small plants for six more communities, says president Vinit Tangnoi.

"Our goal is to help prevent deforestation and preserve watershed forestry areas by building mini hydropower plants," he says. "We hope that what happened in Doi Inthanon can be repeated in other villages."

Ban Sun Din Daeng in the past had no electricity supply because transmission lines are prohibited in reserved forest areas.

"We were living by ourselves in the jungle and making a living mostly from selling natural items we found from the jungle. The ethnic clothes we made were a sideline," said villager Chi Suwichan.

"Weaving clothes was introduced by volunteers for forest preservation a few years ago in order to increase villagers' income. They also installed solar power generators but a year ago the batteries went flat, and the village was in the dark again."

Because the villagers can now make more clothes and earn more money, they don't need to exploit the forest, and deforestation will be curbed.

The village, located 500 metres above sea level, is normally cool and comfortable but this year the weather has been very hot and Mr Chi believes the reduction in forest cover was one of the reasons.

The Energy Ministry has identified 324 communities near watershed forests where micro-hydropower plants could be built.

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