The Bengal forest department has installed solar-powered streetlights in snake-infested Kultali of South 24-Parganas with the support of two private organisations.
Around 4,000 people live in Kultali in the Sundarbans delta, where human-animal conflict is a part of daily life. The residents often get bitten by snakes in the dark in the absence of adequate electrification.
At Debipur of Kultali, the power supply is usually available for about five hours during the daytime.
A solar streetlight along a road in Kultali The Telegraph
Sujit Sanfui, a villager and a Joint Forest Management Committee member, said: “In the absence of power supply, villagers feel helpless and remain confined to homes, as accessing roads become dangerous on account of venomous snakes. The nearest hospital is 36km away.”
Sources in the forest department said the death rate of snakebite victims was around 65 per cent in the area and most died because of delay in getting medical attention.
To help people overcome the problem, two voluntary organisations — Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage and CSR initiative Super Shakti Foundation — joined hands with the forest department to install 30 solar-powered lampposts in the first phase of the endeavour in Debipur.
In July, five such lampposts were made functional.
District forest officer Milan Mondal welcomed the initiative.
“In the absence of power at night, the
dark lanes in the village often become a death trap. There is a fear of snakes as well as tigers
in the dark. This is a great initiative,” said Mondal.
“We have identified the most difficult or risky zones in the village to install solar streetlights,” he added.
Kolkata Society for Cultural Heritage secretary Gunjan Karmakar said: “We are thankful to the forest department, which helped us in identifying the best locations for the lampposts. The forest department also formed a villagers’ committee, which would take care of the posts and the solar panels.”