Lighting the homes of rural poor
March 2007; The 300,000 rural population of Nepal or over 48,000 households will have received access to electricity by June 2007 through 274 micro hydro systems altogether generating 4916 kilo watt power' the settlements that are not likely to be connected by the national grid in the next five years.
Primary school teacher Bhagirathi of Chimkeshwori Village Development Committee, Tanahu district says the light has boosted her student's interest in their studies. 'Before it was all dark, the children did not want to study. Now it is bright. Children are happy, they study. Their studies have also improved a lot,' she says.
The UNDP supported Rural Energy Development Programme (REDP) started in 1996 has demonstrated that rural livelihood can be enhanced through the promotion of community micro hydro systems. Operational at present in 25 hill and mountainous districts the primary beneficiaries are rural communities with special focus on vulnerable groups that include women, dalits and indigenous people. The key stakeholders are local bodies such as the District Development Committees, Village Development Committees, private sector, government line agencies, local NGOs, educational institutions, donors and individuals involved in energy and local development.
With the availability of electricity there has been an increased access to information through television and radio. Communities have mills and dairies running in their own village. Women do household works as well as other income generating activities at night.
In Nepal, 85 percent of the population live in rural areas, and only about 10 percent have access to grid electrification. More than 90% of the total consumed energy is used by the residential sector alone. Though the first hydro power plant of 500 kilowatt was established in 1911, only around 600 megawatt has been harnessed so far from its huge economically feasible hydro-power generation potential of 43,000 megawatt.
The electricity supply at present is only for 33% of the total population of the country. In the recent years, the demand for modern energy services is increasing rapidly, especially with the commitment of the Government of Nepal (GoN) to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Today, the electricity supply from the national grid has become worse as it is evident from the ever increasing load shedding hours in the country. Presently it has increased from 3 hours to 7 hours a day with the prediction of 12 hours per day before the monsoon starts.
REDP has significantly contributed to the improvement of energy services to the poor by building strong social capital, economic growth and improved environment.
(For more information pls. contact Ms. Sangita Khadka, UNDP Nepal Development Communications Officer, 00-977-1-5523200/1077)