Lighting up Ladakh with Rural Solar Electrification Project

Eco tourism, Solar Electrification, Ladakh tourism

Have you thought of the biggest unfortunate challenge that India faces even after 70 years of independence? It is the fact that there still are thousands of villages which continue to live in dark. These are primarily inhabited by scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. These poorly electrified or un-electrified villages slog on all indices of human development. We are all aware that green energy is a sustainable source of power. Solar energy is next generation inexhaustible source of energy.

There are many isolated and remote villages in Ladakh that are yet to be electrified. Our team of 15 people from California held out an extensive research. We found out that villagers were still using kerosene lamps as a means to illuminate their homes. Using fuel can have adverse health hazards and the fumes affect both the young and elderly in the region.

Realising this, we scrutinized and boiled down to initiate and implement a rural solar electrification project in Village Takmachik in the Sham region of Ladakh. Owing to its total isolation and distance, it was challenging to financially connect these villages to the power grid. Due to high transmission cost, it seemed as not viable.

Committing ourselves to a hardworking week from the 14th to the 21st of July, 2017 we lived between the Ladakhis in this village. It is a three-hour drive from the capital city of Leh. Our primary objective was to adopt and power ten houses that were totally off the grid due to their geographical location with solar lights. The identified homes could be reached after a three-hour trek uphill. Located on two ridges up in the mountains, each home set at a ten-minute trek from one another.

Rural solar electrification is what came across as an appropriate and suitable solution for such a village. It is financially and technically more feasible and is easier to install, operate and maintain. The solar units were created by students studying in the middle school in the United States. These units were crafted especially keeping in mind the village and its geographical limitations.

The logistical issue of transporting solar equipment into this region was our biggest challenge. Our solar batteries were not allowed to be flown into Leh by the airlines. As a last minute call, we opted to transport them by road into Ladakh which took us an arduous 7 days.

The equipment weighed over 170 kilograms and we had to carry these on our backs. With the local help and the support of a donkey, we hiked into the mountains all the way to the houses that were to be powered. Trekking in the arid and high altitude of 10500 ft. was a life-changing experience for our team at Offbeat Tracks.

We also spent time with local families in the village and chalked out a plan to support them financially. We learned their techniques of organic farming and other methods that are practiced by the villagers in order to earn their livelihood. This project helped us succeed in supplementing them with additional income by promoting eco-tourism. Over this span of our five-day visit to the village, the total earnings by the community amounted to INR 1,00,000/- which was a great boost to the locals morale and their village economy.

To summarise, our project is based on harnessing the sun and enriching the lives of the villagers. The experience overall was thorough and fulfilling one where we got a chance to experience rural Ladakhi life. Our smallest efforts brought in a great transformation in the lives of many people in and around the region.

We strived to save money and provide multiple financial openings. This, in turn, will help the flow of income and employment opportunities for the rural population.

As long as the sun shines in the daytime, all the families get undisturbed lighting for eight hours every night.