MONTEGO BAY, St James — An initiative to promote wider use of solar lamps and minimise the number of deaths from house fires will take a major step forward in the nation’s Parliament on Tuesday.
According to Energy Minister Daryl Vaz, Members of Parliament (MPs) will be provided with letters that will signal the wide-scale testing of the project whose pilot was recently launched in St James.
“We will make arrangements for each MP to come and collect; they’ll get a letter in Parliament on Tuesday and then, of course, we hope that, within a month or two, we can start getting some feedback in terms of some numbers from each constituency of how many people who need something like this, especially those who have no form of electricity,” Vaz stated.
He was speaking with journalists last Friday during a tour of the rural electrification systems in St James where he also handed over 10 lights to MP for St James Central Heroy Clarke. Powered by the sun, the lamps can also be charged via a USB port, similar to the way a cellphone is powered.
“This is a pilot project, we have 1,000 lights that we brought in on the instruction of the prime minister,” Vaz told reporters.
MPs for St James North Western and St James West Central, Dr Horace Chang and Marlene Malahoo Forte, respectively, were also provided with a few lights as part of the initial test phase.
“Each of the 63 constituencies will get and depending on the feedback from this…in next year’s budget we’ll provide a substantial amount, maybe 5,000 [or] 10,000 that we can give a substantial amount to each Member of Parliament to go into the various communities to find those persons who are still existing without any form of electricity,” Vaz explained.
In April of 2018, the Government launched a pilot project to provide residents in some St Andrew inner-city communities with 5,000 solar lamps. Also billed as a way to reduce house fires, that push was being overseen by the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica.
The status of that project, and where it is in any way linked to this new thrust, is unclear.
Speaking in St James, Vaz once again pressed the issue of safety.
“Too many people have lost [their] lives…their structural belongings because they are using kerosene lamps and improvising with other sorts [of power sources],” the minister said as he explained the rationale for the project.
“I hope that this will absolutely save possessions, property and life as we have seen too many people that have suffered because of the type of lighting that they are using,” he added.