Imagine you are on a trek at an altitude of 11,000 ft, struggling to breathe while walking on a 2 feet wide path. Next, to a steep valley, a misstep will cost your life.
But a group of people from different parts of the world went through this unimaginable trek to electrify the 1000-year-old remotest village in Ladakh, Shade. The trekking group traveled 300+ Km through serpentine roads, streams and steep valleys via four wheeler’s and then trekked 125 Km to reach the village. The group spent 2 days in the village to set up 5 solar powered DC micro grids designed by ‘Global Himalayan Expedition’. Follow Spotlife Asia for the latest news and updates.
This is not the only remote village ‘Global Himalayan Expedition’ team has electrified. Till date, they have electrified 52 villages impacting over 20,000 people. There are multiple organisations that provide basic electricity to villages which are easily accessible but there are very few that provide electricity to the villages that are not connected by roads and are remotely located. To reach these villages the team has to trek for multiple days from the last point of the motor-able road.
Paras Loomba, an electronics and communication engineer quit his corporate job after completing an International Antarctica Expedition in 2012 led by Robert Swan, OBE founder of 2041.
“I realized there is a huge need in India itself to combat climate change using technology. After returning to India, I started a similar program involving social impact. The plan is to utilize clean technology to combat climate change in remote Himalayan villages. This is how ‘Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE)’ started. The first expedition was joined by 20 people from 10 different countries,” said Paras.
Being the son of an army officer, Paras lived in many remote parts of North East and in J&K. Paras was already familiar with the topography of these regions. He chose Ladakh as it had a large number of off-grid trekable villages that were not connected by road. For the first expedition, the Global Himalayan Expedition team established an education center in 2013 called ‘Third Pole Education Base’, in a 14×20 room in Mahabodhi school in Leh, with an aim to impart digital and experiential education for the students of Ladakh. The school houses students from the surrounding 50 villages.
At this juncture, Paras and his team decided to start the second expedition in 2014 to electrify this remote village using DC micro grid technology. The DC micro grid is easy to set up and also the voltage and current levels are low and not fatal to human beings as it may take days together to go to the nearest hospital.
The Global Himalayan Expedition team consists of 5 full-time employees and approximately 24 contract employers who take care of various operations.Most of the full-time employees of GHE have left their corporate jobs to lead this initiative. Global Himalayan Expedition is now a ‘Team story’ than an ‘individual one’. The team also trains local Electricians on DC solar micro grid technology so that there are enough trained electricians available to help these grids in future.
Till now the team has electrified over 50 villages and most of these villages are remotely located on the hills. They have trekked for days and sometimes weeks to reach these villages. There are multiple positive outcomes of electrification of villages.
Energy entrepreneurs: Apart from electrifying the villages the team also trains two people from each village to maintain the solar micro grids. For every cluster of villages that GHE electrifies, GHE setups a service center to service these grids. These service centers are run by GHE chosen entrepreneurs. The villagers then pay these GHE entrepreneurs for any kind of grid servicing or additional LED lights they may want to invest in.
Migration: The people who migrated from the villages are slowly returning as they see opportunities to work and get income.
Village Transformation: One of the villages that the team electrified is Cha, located in the Zanskar valley of Ladakh. To reach the village from Leh one has to travel three days by four-wheeler’s and trek for two days. Once the electrification was completed the income in the village increased due to an increase in tourist home stays in their village. This brought additional income and now these villagers have access to television and information as they bought DC LED TVs from GHE. Most of the villages in this region depend on handicrafts and also tourists who trek. Before the advent of electricity, the tourists used to camp outside the village.
Health: Previously, the villagers used to burn hundreds of liters of kerosene in the night, especially in winters, resulting in pollution and in turn causing health hazards. Now the villagers do not have to buy and burn kerosene.
After electrifying Ladakh, the team plans to move to North East India and to other mountainous regions of the world. In 2018 Global Himalayan Expedition team wants to introduce wireless communication systems powered by the same micro grids to all the villages in Ladakh.