Environmental problems and poverty are undeniably interlinked. When people are forced into poverty through war or conflict and placed into refugee camps, the effect on both humans and the environment can be detrimental – or is there something we can do? When we think about refugee camps, the first image that comes to mind is a tent city with far too many people and a severe lack of basic hygiene. However, Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp in Thailand has proven that this doesn’t have to be the case.
In 2012, Koung Jor Shan became the world’s first solar-powered refugee camp, installing enough solar panels to provide electricity for over 600 residents and enough power for one communal computer for the camp’s education center. This was all made possible with the help of The Branch Foundation, a New Zealand-based non-profit that works at implementing sustainable community projects in Southeast Asia.
Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp was formed in 2002 after villagers were forced to flee their homes to escape the fighting between the Burmese military and the Shan State Army. In the early days, refugee residents relied on Kerosene lamps and candles for light – it wasn’t until The Branch Foundation came in 2009 that sustainable development projects were introduced, which resulted in the solar panel installation that was completed in 2012.
The Branch Foundation continues to seek out opportunities to bring similar projects to other Southeast Asian communities.
Images via: www.thebranchfoundation.org