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Saving the Beauty of Himalayas
By Tej Prasad Rimal, Alternative
Energy Officer, Annapurna Conservation
Area Project (ACAP), Nepal

120,000 visitors/ year using fuel wood is a threat to the area. An Alternative Energy Program decreases the immense pressure on forest resources.
 
Fuel-wood cutting is a threat to the forests in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, where all the energy needed for households comes from fuel wood, which is used for all the necessary purposes, such as heating, cooking, and lighting.
The first, and still the largest, protected area in Nepal is the Annapurna Conservation Area. It covers about 8000 km2 and is home to over 120,000 people. It is the destination of over 60,000 trekkers, with about the same number of their supporting staff (guides and porters), every year. This soaring number of visitors, whose fuel-wood consumption is twice that of local people, has exerted immense pressure on forest resources that are already stressed by the growing local population.
Alternative Energy Program
holistic and integrated approach in project planning. Implementation was started in 1986.
This Program now plays a vital role in reducing fuel-wood consumption. In so doing, it also reduces environmental degradation, improves sanitation and hygiene at the household level, and thereby reduces the workload of women. It promotes technology that:
• minimize fuel-wood consumption.
• substitutes the fuel wood.
It does this by promoting technology that replaces the use of fuel wood with renewable energy sources and/or that uses fuel wood more efficiently.

The number of alternative energy devices introduced between 1986-1998 is shown in the table below:
Device Quantity
------------------------------------------------------
Improved Cooking stove 696
Back-boiler water heater 482
Pressure cooker 888
Thermos flask 656
Solar water heater 96
Smoke water heater 31
Low wattage cooker/heater 223

Since 1991, solar power, biogas, and micro-hydro power plants are among the installed alternatives to fuel wood.

Power plant Number
-------------------------------------------------------
Micro hydro 6
Solar cell (PV) system 40
Solar mills 2
Biogas 400
400 biogas plants are reliable sources of energy for cooking and lighting, reducing fuel-wood consumption in the southern part of the area where it is warmer and each household’s farming system includes livestock.
There are 2 solar mills, which are harnessing solar energy for grinding grains as well as for lighting. They also decrease the time that women must spend to walk to the nearest mill, because in the northern part of the area there is lack of sufficient water for a water mill.
6 micro-hydro power plants provide 315 kW electricity to about 2000 households.
The Gains
The electricity generated from micro-hydro or solar energy is used for:
• Powering agro-processing machinery: Electrically powered mills relieve rural people, especially women, from the traditional methods of grinding, hulling, and oil extraction, which are laborious and time-consuming.
• Lighting: Electric lighting improves the quality of life of remote rural areas. It also raises health standards, as it reduces the use of kerosene and, in high mountain areas, pine chips, both of which fuels give off fumes.
• Cooking with an electric cooker: This saves time that otherwise would have been spent on collecting firewood, slows deforestation, and improves domestic safety and health standards.
• Powering machinery for income-generating purposes: Electrically powered machines can be the basis for small-scale rural industries and off-farm enterprises, which create local opportunities and facilitate better use of local resources.
User-owned scheme
The local ownership, management, and operation provide an opportunity for the people to make better use of available resources. If a scheme is user-owned, the user will be more responsible for the scheme, and will look after it more effectively.

An example - micro-hydro plant

The local community owns the micro-hydro plant. The project is financed in the following way:
• 70% subsidy (by a donor partner through ACAP)
• 30% local people’s participation, consisting of free labour, e.g., transport of local materials, building the power house, digging holes for the poles, and providing local materials (sand, gravel, stones). Half of this contribution can be paid as cash or from a bank loan (Agriculture Development Bank of Nepal).
• ACAP conservation grant and conservation loan (interest free) is provided if necessary.

After testing and commissioning, the plant is handed over to the Village Electrification Committee (VEC), which manages it. The VEC meets once a month. Its responsibilities are as follows:
• Appointing a manager and two operators.
• Instructing the staff and supervising them.
• Making decisions regarding the repayment of the loan.
• Setting the electricity rate and the future increases.
• Overseeing the maintenance-, capital replacement-, and development funds.
• Deciding on rules and regulations regarding electricity use.
• Approval of the expenditures for repair and maintenance of the plant.

In the first 3 years, the Alternative Energy Officer or representative of the ACAP regularly monitors the VEC and attends their meetings.

Tej Prasad Rimal, Alternative Energy Officer at the Project. Tej is 34 years old. He has a mechanical engineering background in Nepal, and graduated with a B.Sc. in electrical engineering in Manila, Philippines. Now, in the beginning of 2000, he is on an internship at the Stockholm Environmental Institute in Sweden as a Visiting Developing-Country Professional. His research area is “Critical success factors evaluation of micro-hydro”.
Holistic Approach
We consider this to be the most successful integrated conservation and development project in the world. It was introduced because the sectoral approach was insufficient to solve the problems. It reflects the realisation that nature conservation and economic development are mutually dependent. In line with this concept, it:
• Emphasizes the participation of local people at the grassroots level. The local people are the principal actors as well as the main beneficiaries.
• Returns the revenue gained from tourism to help fund local development, nature conservation, and tourism development.
• Promotes local guardianship, which tends to make tourism and other developmental activities responsive to the fragility of the area.
• Increases the number of sources of income in the local economy through skills development, increases in local production, and local entrepreneurship.

Project activities include all of the following areas: alternative energy, sustainable tourism management, agro-forestry, conservation education for villagers and tourists, sustainable community development projects, health and sanitation programs, research and training. Conservation Area Management Committees, concerned with forest management, electrification, local lodge management, mothers’ groups, and so on, manage and control the projects, with assistance from ACAP staff.

The project is managed by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, which is an autonomous, non-profit-making, non-governmental organisation. The projects are supported by various European and Asian environment and development organisations.
More information:
Tej Prasad Rimal, or Siddhartha Bajracharya, Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP),
PO Box 183, Pokhara, NEPAL,
Ph: +977-61-21102, 28202,
fax: +977-61-28203,
e-mail: aeo@mos.com.np,
http://www.south-asia.com/kingmah.htm.
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ISSUE #28 (981KB) 20 pages (2000-02-28)
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