Micro hydro illuminates Lukla- gateway to the Everest region
May 2010; The 100 kw Bom Khola micro hydro plant'a joint venture of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre of the Government of Nepal, UNDP Rural Energy Development Programme (REDP), the World Bank and the local community has brought a huge change in Lukla with the generation of power. The project is the first and the largest system built and owned by a local community in the country with the support of REDP.
Commissioned on 6 June 2008, the plant provides electricity to a total of 193 households, of which 147 have been converted into hotels and lodges and the house owners have become hotel managers .The remaining 46 households belong to poor families, who would have never dreamt of having electricity in their houses had the project not been launched in the village. The generation of electricity has significantly contributed to the economy and lives of people in Lukla whose main source of income is tourism.
A quick short walk in the Lukla market can lure a person to stay for some extra days. Electricity has enabled people to run restaurants, bakery with internet and email facilities, retail shops, tailoring centres, ironing centres, coffee houses and pubs with little disco theatres and even a movie house besides the general lighting and heating. The hot cakes and apple pies coming out of the microwaves and big ovens give warmth to the place and a different ambience that holds one in the place for quite a while and the shining coffee machines have expanded the choices of coffee for the visitors. Around four dozen hotels and lodges are serving visitors in Lukla, often known as the gateway to the Everest Region.
Ang Phurba Sherpa, the local community project manager says that they intend to expand the work to generate electricity in two adjoining Village Development Committees with the support of REDP. 'There will be 100 per cent electrification in Lukla after this', he said.
Dawa Sherpa of Paradise Lodge and Restaurant says, 'Electricity generated has helped to reduce deforestation immensely. People do not have to cut trees for firewood.'
Phurung Gyaltsen, the owner of Irish Pub in Lukla says, 'After the electricity came, I saw better prospects of earning in my own birthplace so I returned back to my village and opened this Pub. I finished my higher studies in Kathmandu.'
Dawa Tshiring of Himalayan Lodge takes pride in hosting diplomats and famous personalities. He says, 'Lukla was dark and all we had was solar energy but now we have been able to provide much better services to our guests with the generation of electricity. People are connected to the outside world through internet and email access otherwise Lukla was like a separate planet before'.
The other major innovation of this project is that all electric lines have been put underground and are connected to clean and inconspicuous connection boxes to protect the natural scenery, contrary to other places where wires are hanging up on the air or tied untidily up on the poles and houses. Situated at 2,860m altitude, Lukla is one of the favourite destinations of mountaineers, hikers and tourists in general. The small Tenzing-Hillary airport built in 1964 with the support of Sir Edmund Hillary receives at least 8-10 scheduled flights and 4-5 private helicopters per day during the peak season (March-April, Sept- Oct).
The REDP contributes to Millennium Development Goals by reducing poverty and hunger (MDG #1), to achieving universal primary education (MDG #2) by providing lighting, to promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health (MDGs # 3,4 and 5) by removing wood-collecting burden from women and smoky wood burning stoves from thier homes and to ensuring environmental sustainability( MDG # 7) by lessening reliance on green house gas emitting and forest depleting sources of energy. They contribute to the peace process by decentralising decision-making to give communities more control over their development.