Saturday, December 23, 2006

Villages Near Mt Everst to Light Up Soon

Razen Manandhar

Kathmandu, December 22[2006]:
Five villages near the Mount Everest will have electric lights in four months. The tourist area is deprived of electricity, which has been a challenge to the conservation of Sagarmatha National Park, one of four World Heritage Sites of the country.

A model micro-hydro power project, being installed at Toktok in Chaurikharkha VDC of Solukhumbu district, will supply electricity to some 100 households in five villages. The project is said to be designed in response to the worldwide debate over development and conservation. A powerhouse is being constructed at Toktok village near Ghatte Khola at a height of 2,700 metres.

"The 70 KW power project is going to be complete by April. We are working on war-footing and we hope it will be complete by the deadline as the peace process has made the job easy these days," Ugan Manandhar, alternative energy officer at WWF Nepal, told this daily today.

WWF-Nepal designed the project to use the source of alternative energy for community-based rural electrification to improve the livelihood of people by bringing about income-generating activities in the long run and correlating it with conservation.

"Unlike the widespread opinion that hydroelectricity deteriorates nature, we are trying to show that micro-hydro project indeed can support nature conservation," he said.

According to him, the locals will use electricity for cooking purposes instead of firewood and thus will help keep the forest and nature in the buffer zone of Sagarmatha National Park intact.

The project will use Ghatte Khola of Solukhumbu as its source stream and it will benefit Phakding, Thulo Gumila, Jhamkutte, Toktok and Nangbote villages. A total of 89 potential subscribers have been traced, including 11 tourist lodges, 34 local bars, two monasteries and households.

WWF-Nepal has provided a grant of Rs 12.94 million, which makes up 90 per cent of the project's total cost. Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone Support Programme will jointly bear seven per cent cost and three per cent will be born by the local users' committees.

The construction of a canal, laying underground cable and powerhouse structure have been completed. Transportation of pipes and poles is going on, pole erection and transmission as well as distribution works are about to be completed. Some electro-mechanical equipments are yet to arrive in Kathmandu, Manandhar said.

He added that the project was going on smoothly, as the local community and the community-based organisations were supporting WWF-Nepal.

"We are trying to develop some income generating activates in the villages which will make the power plant really meaningful," he said.