City of Harare (CoH) has lost 52 solar street lights batteries to thieves in recent months, forcing council to redesign the structures to make them more secure.
Council has so far installed a total of 867 solar-powered lights on parts of Samora Machel Ave, Airport Road, Robert Mugabe Road, Fourth Street, Borrowdale Road and Churchill Avenue. The City’s acting corporate communications manager Michael Chideme said that Airport Road has been the most affected, losing 52 of the 588 batteries that were installed along the road.
“As a result we have had to remove all the solar lights batteries along Airport Road in order to improve the security of the batteries underground. We have now done the security checks and the solar batteries have now been put back. We have also been improving the security of solar batteries elsewhere,” said Chideme.
Chideme revealed that some arrests have been made but urged residents to report any suspicious activity they might notice around solar street lights to Council. The City expects to install a total of 10,000 solar lights by year end as part of its ‘innovation’ program wherein it has invited corporates to finance the installation of solar lights in return for advertising space on the poles for periods of up to 15 years.
“Right now we are putting up solar street lights along Samora Machel Ave. We are also putting solar traffic lights at all intersections along the same road as part of our program to adopt the use of green energy and reduce our over reliance on electricity,” says Chideme.
Chideme explained that at the moment the programme was only focused on installing solar lights on major thoroughfares, but that they would soon be introduced to residential areas after the completion of the initial phase.
Solar energy has been touted by many as the solution to the recurrent power shortages, but it is sad to note that council have been slow in installing the solar lights with 867 installations since the launch of the program last year.
James Manase (31) from Avondale says that council should put more resources into harnessing solar energy. “It is sad that some people are now stealing these batteries, but I believe that council should more be serious in harnessing solar energy despite this setback because it will be cheaper in the long run. Council should also consider residents who might want to contribute towards the installation of solar lights in their neighbourhoods,” said Manase.
Street lighting at night has been a problem in Harare as council has struggled over the years to maintain the existing street lights which are now dysfunctional due to old-age. It is hoped that the solar street lights project will go a long way in addressing this challenge.
Image: Workers install solar street lights along Samora Machel in the Avenues.