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Baglung emerges from darkness

NIRJANA SHARMA & DILIP POUDEL

With 12 hours of power outage per day, Nepalis now have to mold their lifestyles and timetables around the Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) load shedding schedules. Despite having the capacity to generate 83,000MW of electricity from the water resources with a technical and economic viability to produce 42,000MW power, the government continues to express its helplessness to utilize the resource citing lack of budget and poor economic conditions.

However, Baglung has stopped blaming the government and taken the matter in its own hands. It is producing electricity through micro-hydro projects.
And the transformation the micro hydro projects have brought in the lives of the residents of Baglung and the community collectively is evident in Burtibang Village. In this tiny village situated in the mid-hills of Dhaulagiri Zone, tiger attacks were a common occurrence. Cattles were killed and the residents were injured time and again. After the completion of the 35KW-capacity micro hydro plant and the subsequent electricity generation, the villagers are now safe from such attacks.


Overview of Nishi Khola II Micro Hydro Project (100 KW), Boharagaun -9, Baglung.

“Nowadays, women head out even at night to go to toilet or wash the utensils at the communal tap,” says Gaumati Thapa, a resident of Winekuna Village. For Thapa, going to the toilet at dusk was an unimaginable thought even though she had never seen tigers in the area. Cases of sexual abuse were also on a steady rise, given how dark it was. Manbir BK, 65, of Darleeng-8, who lives alone, also agrees that life was tougher when there was no electricity in the village.

Since 2007, however, neither cattle nor human attacks have been heard about. According to Tek Bahadur Thapa, Chairperson of the Bhuji Khola II Micro Hydro Project, the village dazzles with light bulbs at night and that has greatly reduced danger threats. A total of 300 households are now living without fear.
Likewise, the Nishi Khola Micro Hydro Project of 48KW capacity has come as a blessing for Putali Karki who says she has now forgotten all the hardships that came with having no electricity.

Chiisti Village’s residents have experienced that electricity saves time, labor and increases income. The villagers who used to pay four Rupees for traditional watermills and Rs 8.5 per ‘pathi’ for grinding and milling in the diesel mill now pay only three Rupees per pathi at the electric mills. Tika Ram Thapa, the mill owner, shares that he makes around Rs 90,000 from the milling business. He has to pay only Rs 500 per month as power tariff to NEA.
The Dhaulagiri Community Resource Development Center (DCRDC), one among the first area centers established here in 2000 by the Micro-hydro Component Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC)/Energy Sector Assistance Program (ESAP), has plenty of other stories to share on the success of the micro hydro projects, including the establishment of small entrepreneurship or the people’s increasing access to Internet.

The project that came into operation at Tangram Village in 1998 with 17KW capacity was the first of its kind, according to Baglung residents. Today, even Practical Action, the implementing agency of this project, lacks the account of those who brought the concept here at that time. But its success took the locals to a revolutionary path of being independent in terms of electricity.

Today, around three megawatt of hydroelectricity is being generated from a total of 156 micro hydro projects that are in operation in the district, covering over three dozens of villages and a municipality at the public private partnership, according to the data available at DCRDC.

While it costs Rs 350,000 to produce power per KW, 30 more projects with a total 1835.3 KW to benefit 13,921 households are in the pipeline, said Mini Grid Engineer Niraj Khatiwada of DCRDC in Baglung. The center allocates Rs 125,000 as grants per KW under the public-private partnership (PPP).

Back in 1981, Nepal Government had built a powerplant at Mulpani of the district that benefited some 355 families of Baglung headquarters and two surrounding villages. Three hundred households of Kalika Village, then Dhaulagiri Zonal headquarters, which later transformed as Baglung Bazaar, received the power connection. Similarly, 30 households of Mulpani and 25 of Tityan received electricity at a time when more than half of Nepal needed supply and people had yet to get electricity facility in many emerging urban areas.

However, the facility could not get upgraded for years due to political upheavals. “The continuous political vicissitudes from the collapse of the Panchayat system and the restoration of democracy kept the potential of Baglung to produce hydropower in the dark for years,” says Sarbajeet KC of Tityan VDC.

But the locals became aware of the potential of Kali Gandaki in terms of hydropower. Apart from the political issues that created hot debates among the residents, hydroelectricity became a popular topic over the years. However, they could not produce electricity due to lack of technical assistance.

Geography alone wasn’t what gave them the chance to enjoy the privilege and benefits. The efforts and willpower of the villagers should be credited for that, says Sangita Thapa Magar, Program Director of DCRDC.

Now with the success of micro hydro project, Baglung has achieved another record of sampling mini grid that functions by combining multiple hydro micro projects into one grid. AEPC Executive Director Govind Raj Pokhrel said that the pilot project of the mini grid has also succeeded, and the DCRDC is set to implement it at the soonest.

Delighted at the progress of his place, Sarbajeet KC, now 56, recalls the early years in Baglung when there were no roads, and access to education and health was poor. Currently deployed as the supervisor at NEA in Baglung, KC has seen his village literally emerge from the dark. His dreams of enjoying electricity have finally been fulfilled after a wait of 32 years. But he is happy that the town is developing and that his six-year-old granddaughter does not have to light up the ‘tuki’ or light candles to study, like most children are still doing in various parts of the country.

Source: Republica Daily

Link: http://theweek.myrepublica.com/details.php?news_id=68107

Published on 2014-01-17 12:12:01
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About nirjanasharma

Journalist.

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