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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Dec. 8, 2000 – Marshall Islands Journal)---2001 is going to be a year for "solarizing" many of the outer islands, according to Resources and Development Secretary Fredrick Muller.

Through a Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) grant, all of Mejit Island’s 60 households will be outfitted with solar equipment, while Namdrik’s previously installed but now not working household solar equipment will be rehabilitated.

An SPC grant involving French and Australian funding that is valued at close to $300,000 will go for these two projects. A key component of both projects will be an emphasis on maintenance and management training for upkeep of the systems, said Muller, adding that the Ministry is considering involving "capable business people" on the outer islands in the management and maintenance of these solar systems.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) will be paying for installation of solar equipment in 11 outer island dispensaries, Muller said. The Italian government is providing about $180,000 for the health project that ESCAP is supervising. Muller credited RMI’s U.N. Ambassador Jakeo Rilang with pursuing this project to bring the funding to the RMI.

Ten of the dispensaries, which the Ministry of Health is to select for Cabinet review, will receive indoor lights, a refrigerator and a street light, all powered by the sun. Likiep Atoll’s health center will get a larger, centralized unit because of its bigger size than most outer island dispensaries. This could allow for expansion for dental and other health services, as well as to the rest of the community at a later point, Muller indicated.

The dispensary project will start in January and it is expected to take up to four months to complete installation.

"The biggest hurdle is management and maintenance after the units are installed," Muller said. "These projects include training for technicians and will involve local governments in management."

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail:  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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