THE GHANDRUK EXPERIENCE
We all recognize the central, life-sustaining importance
of food, water, shelter and clothing. Energy, because it
is less visible, is often overlooked, yet it is the driving
force behind everything we do. Energy is fundamental
to development because it allows people to do more
with the resources they have. This is why reliable and
accessible energy supplies are so important in
enhancing the lives of poor people.
Using the example of Ghandruk, a mountain village in
Nepal, this booklet describes how one form of energy -
micro-hydro power - can help rural communities meet
these needs. It also demonstrates how this power can
be used for electric cooking, and the implications this
has for saving fuelwood.
Nepal faces a number of challenges in meeting its energy
needs. A poor country, land-locked in the centre of Asia
with no fossil fuel reserves of its own, it cannot afford to
depend on expensive imported fuels. Partly because of
Figure 1: Water is one of Nepal's
most valuable natural resources.
this, and partly because much of the population lives in
isolated mountainous districts, about 90 per cent of Nepal's energy consumption comes from
'biomass' fuels (mainly firewood, but also dung and other combustible natural materials). The
steady increase in population, coupled with other factors such as the recent explosion in tourism,
means that these resources are now being stretched to their limits.
But the country is rich in one important resource: water (hydro) power. Nepal has the potential to
generate nearly 30,000 megawatts (MW) of power from its fast-flowing rivers that thunder down
from the Himalayas. Even in a power-greedy industralized country this would be a massive
resource - enough, for instance, to run Britain's two largest cities, London and Birmingham, where
around eight million people live and many more travel daily to work.
The Government of Nepal has recognized this potential and the country's hydropower sector is
developing rapidly. Medium- and large-scale schemes are the main focus for providing power for
the national grid. Yet only 10 per cent of Nepal's 19 million people have access to grid
electricity. In view of the country's mainly mountainous terrain, extending the grid to reach these
people will be slow and costly.
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