A group of engineers reach India inaccessible with solar water heaters and lights during COVID


New Delhi — A group of seven Indian engineers is working to solve a problem encountered only by people in the inaccessible Himalayan region of the highlands of Ladakh during a pandemic. Water.

More generally, the Ladakh people faced the problem of how to manage their lives when everyone was at home for lockdown and there was no power supply.

Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), a social enterprise run by seven engineers, is using tourism as a driving force for development, but six months after India reopened, 45 in Ladakh. The first wave of a pandemic with 150 solar water heaters in the village and solar power in 13 villages.

“We are a group of engineers, and the idea was to see areas where we could adventure and at the same time influence the community,” said GHE founder Pallas. Rombas told the Epoch Times on the phone. 90% of the villages they reached were inaccessible until 2019, and people had to walk for days to get there, he said. It was.

The Global Himalayan Expedition’s efforts over the last decade include providing solar power to 105 villages in Ladakh. It contains eight remote Buddhist monasteries.

“Two things when it comes to COVID: winter Ladakh, especially in the cold regions of the desert, is very harsh, down to -30 degrees Celsius. It can drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Rural people don’t have a heating system. , They can’t expect to take a bath every day, probably once a week, once a month, “GHE founder Pallas Romba told the Epoch Times over the phone.

The Epoch Times
On February 14, 2021, the villagers will gather when the solar panels arrive at Dungti, a village on the de facto border between India and China. The panel was set up by engineers from the Global Himalayan Expedition. (Photo courtesy of GHE)

“The second is the basically dry area of ​​the Leh district, where there is not enough water in winter and it is the only frozen water. The only option is spring water or a manual pump. The water must be deep enough. If you can’t drain water, “he said, adding that people need to save water for the summer.

GHE had already provided solar power in some of the country’s most remote areas, where they considered using the same technology to offer other “simple solutions”. ..

The Ladakh region, which was a state of Jammu and Kashmir before 2019, became a Union Territory (UT) after India’s constitutional amendment.

According to Rombas, the region beyond the Himalayas, with villages between 9000 and 14500 feet above sea level, is the least developed.

“Of course, plans are underway now, and the government is trying to do its best after becoming UT a few years ago, but still in most of the rural areas, especially in Zanskar, between Leh and Kargil. In the area [seen] Any development, “Rombas said.

The Government of Ladakh has signed a memorandum of understanding with the state-owned company Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) Unit Convergence Energy Services Ltd (CESL) on June 5 to install a solar mini-grid in Ladakh. did.

Loomba points to this news and emphasizes the importance of the work that the “group of engineers” has done over the last decade.

The Epoch Times
A Ladaki woman with a newly installed solar water heater in the village of Charak in the Marca Valley of the Ladakh region of India in April 2021. The installation was done by engineers at the Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE), an Indian social enterprise. (Photo courtesy of GHE)

How did it start?

Loomba launched the Global Himalayan Expedition in 2013, supplying electricity to the same village as a company that takes travelers from all over the world to such remote areas.

“A group of 40 people from all over the world get together and their money is used as part of an expedition, some of which is used to electrify remote villages, which we started 10 years ago. It’s a way, “Romba added, adding that in addition to tourists, many international development agencies have also begun to work with GHE.

The team of engineers has no tourism experience and rely on simple solutions to solve related problems.

“The idea was whether we could design a solution that was easy for travelers to install and easy for villagers to maintain. At the very least, we need to transform or transcend them, just by using kerosene or a small CFL. [compact fluorescent lights] A great TV with LED lighting and communication capabilities, “says Rombas.

During the pandemic, lockdowns took place around the world, travelers stopped coming to Ladakh, GHE began receiving CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) financing, medical systems such as Ladakh’s solar water heaters and other important The infrastructure has been improved.

Loomba said the infrastructure they were building during the pandemic would be useful for tourism once the pandemic was settled.

“So in a village where there are people who want to build a homestay or guesthouse, [be able to] Later, we will use this water heater as part of a tourist facility for our guests to make them safe and secure, and there is also good hot water in this area to wash their hands, “Rombas said. I explained how to set it up. Heating and solar power in such a remote village will greatly help to bring sustainable income to people.

Water heaters are not fully donated and must be donated by the family to the installation.

“Suppose it costs $ X. For example, if you’re $ 200 or Rs 14,000, you’ll want to donate Rs 5000 per water heater, which means they appreciate the product. It will be, “says Loomba.

“Therefore, we will prepare money for transportation for the person who installs it. So this is a very collaborative model … Because it is inexpensive, even companies fund many people. I can provide it. “

According to Romba, people are actively using solar water heaters and previously used firewood to boil bath water, tea water, or cooking water.

The Epoch Times
Dungti, a Tibetan refugee village on the de facto Indian-Chinese border in Ladakh (Photo courtesy of GHE)

A trip to the farthest village

The Global Himalayan Expedition has powered many Indian villages along the disputed border with China in Ladakh, bringing solar technology to places beyond the reach of traditional grids. These villages are strategically important to India.

“In February of this year, we electrified the village of LAC. [Line of Actual Control or the de facto border with China]My name is Danti. This is a Tibetan refugee village, “said Rombas, adding that Dunti consists of 54 families and a monastery.

The people of this village migrated to the area during the 1962 war between India and China and lived without electricity until this year. A team of two female engineers from Ladakh arrived in the village in three days in a temperature of -25 degrees Celsius.

“We went back in April and installed 15 water heaters in 28 households, which means that two families share one water heater.”

According to Romba, his father and most of the team members’ fathers served the Indian Army, and as a child, traveled to some of the most remote areas where the army was stationed and something for these areas. Developed “tenacity” to do.

The Epoch Times
February 14, 2021, Dungti, a village on the de facto border between India and China in Ladakh.

The GHE team starts by identifying the villages that need help and mobilizes the community to support logistics.

“Most villages aren’t on Google Maps. They say 70-80 percent. Even 90% of the villages there are incorrectly tagged because they don’t have roads. How do you know the exact location? “Lomba said. They start by discussing with the local councilors to see what the village needs.

These councilors know the exact ground conditions and connect the team with local guides. The capital, Leh, has good roads, but there are no roads in remote areas, and the community teams up with horse-like logistics and other support needed to transport materials to remote high-altitude, low-oxygen villages. Is supported.

In this way, Romba said his team went to the most remote healthcare center with solar power and solar water heaters on Ladakh’s de facto border with India during the pandemic. He said he was able to reach it.

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