Solar dried and organics products from remote villages of Ladakh, India

Impact of renewable energy on conservation in the himalayas


Impact of renewable energy on conservation in the himalayas

Some of you know , I have been assiduously investing my time and energy in Ladakh. 11,500 feet above sea level in the pious Himalayas since 2010. I now witness with tourism and development , a lot has changed. I tend to disturb myself with rise of rapid development with cell towers, hotels and incessant breaking of mountains. Ladakh is a sensitive terrain , my association with the terrain began in 2010 , when I was just visiting to learn more about Buddhism and holistic living. I was protected enough to leave Leh two days before the floods hit Ladakh and washed out all trees , buildings , children and people displaced. One of the reasons touted by climate change experts was excessive use of western toilets built in hotels, most Ladakhi youth shifting towards building hotels for mainstream tourism , all this development suddenly after Bollywood discovered Ladakh with 3 Idiots starring Aamir Khan , however when the floods hit Ladakh , he was very helpful , paid a visit to Ladakh and provided them relief. Some of you know , I have played a significant role in the development of Ladakh’s first eco model village Takmachik. This village lost all its apricot trees in the floods during 2010. Since then , the villagers immersed themselves in deep thought and dialogue with Buddhist leaders. People living in remote regions in the mountains living so closely with nature , they understand these dynamics more and are inherently eco positive.

Buddhism lays strong virtue on protecting wildlife and environment. The outcome of these discussions was to let go of use of chemicals , urea while farming , the chief councillor got involved and with many minds , NGO’s they drafted the plan of building an eco model village. I had a brief interaction with the villagers thanks to my sister’s friend Namgyal Wangchuk , who was the son of chief councillor then and doing an internship with LEHO. This was September 2014, I remember so vividly having an informal discussion with innocent organic farmers on a Gompa near a Buddhist bell , I felt a gush and an internal vow spring in my heart to stay connected with this village , it’s mountains and farmers. I spoke profusely on the importance of organic farming without chemicals , continuing use of dry compost toilets , the mountains and organic farmers bound me. It’s 2019 and Takmakchik has been a strong influence in my life , I pledged to not look back , in the last five years , my organisation built its local team with Konchok Sherap’s family , whose wife Yangdol and sister late smt. Stanzin Dolker are now team leaders of self help groups , they would take into account daily activities of farming and processing. Once farming began full swing organically , I was convinced processing should be done using renewable energy.

Through my father’s confidante Mr. R.R. Rashmi , a retired but senior bureaucrat who had been witnessing my hard work and struggles in the mountains suggest I apply for GEF UNDP small grants program under OP5 cycle which had a partnership with Ministry of Environment , Forests and Climate Change. This small grant reached us after three years of being bootstrapped , survival on very little money. I was determined to do my best for the hardworking community of Takmakchik. I wanted to see their reaction towards solar energy , it took us six months to finally understand our solar scientist Mr. Umesh Kaushik’s solar box oven which cooks rice, breads, biscuits , pulses , even mutton and keeps the food warm , fresh in the boxes. The solar cooker reduces 536 kgs of liquified petroleum gas emissions per family over a period of eight months. It has a great impact on conservation as it reduces green house emissions , LPG and reduces hill related accidents. Where LPG cylinders find it difficult to reach , moreover it is a great alternative option when it comes to cooking in the mountains. The villagers need constant motivation to use renewable energy for cooking , however they adopt renewable energy for electrification , heating and post harvest management easily. We have provided the villagers with low cost , made in Ladakh , portable solar dryers to make collection , drying , sorting and making it easier for women and to reduce hill related accidents , women are finding this technology useful. It has also helped prolong the shelf life of apricots from two days to two years. When it gets snowy, windy , the women farmers can collect the dried apricots from under the tree and store it in their rooms.

Apart from Hunza apricots , Ladakh is famously known for the big cat , snow leopard. I have witnessed in a mobile phone video that went viral recently and heard many a time from foresters. About peaceful co – existence of man and snow leopard in the region. In a particular scenario , the snow leopard entered a Ladakhi kitchen walking in silently at night without harming anyone, peacefully strutted around without breaking any utensils or dropping food. The onlookers in the seating area were very peaceful as though it’s a homely pet. Snow leopards are worshipped in the region and fondly called the big cat. With the rapid development in the region and the incessant breaking of mountains which are their natural , original habitat. With this new development , we witness man animal conflict in the terrain and some people who are now killing snow leopards are often touted as heroes. Snow leopards are confused with the loss of their natural habitats , due to the rise of cell towers , breaking of mountains. Cell towers , regular methods of electrification cause radiation , unnecessary construction and sometimes accidents. Pollinators , snow leopards are wary of new technologies emitting radiation. Ladakh and especially Takmakchik is known for whiteflies , fireflies that are known to damage crops but make excellent pollinators that are at risk due to exposure to radiation.

I will write more soon.