By Biraj Gautam, People, Energy & Environment Development Agency (PEEDA), Nepal
The future of the planet is in the hands of the people. Access to energy services is the future for the upcoming generation. I would like to share what I have learnt and gained knowledge in this field. Access to energy services reduces the gap between sorrow and happiness of the community people. Grass-root communities are deprived of many basic necessities and utilities. I have seen the dependency of the local people on natural resources – such as water, grazing land and forests. Depletion of these resources makes it difficult for them to survive.
As a part of PEEDA- WISIONS partnership “Demonstration of Sustainable Low Head Pico Hydro to Deliver Enhanced Rural Energy Services”, I assess the project and its contribution to the socio-economic development of the country. The activities included the installation of pico hydro plants of capacities 3 KW and 1 KW in Toksel VDC and Katunje VDC of Okhaldunga district, Nepal. The reach of a national electricity grid takes a lot of time due to lack of proper infrastructure and road transport.
The project would not have been successful if the local community had not owned it. I was involved in mobilization to make the community understand how the project could help them. From my previous experience, when communities are less involved it is difficult to finalize projects, and that these project have a short life-time. We worked with grass-root groups at every step of the project. The mobilization of people for the construction of canals, collecting wooden poles for transmission lines, stones and pebbles for powerhouse development was a challenge at times, but meant the community gained skills and had ownership of the project.
Coordination with both the project team and the local community at the same time needed to be effective enough to complete the project as per the scope, cost and quality. We used focus group discussions and community meetings at regular intervals to disseminate updated progress to all the stakeholders of the project.
Access to electricity has changed the lives of the community. I saw the enthusiasm and the eagerness of the people to observe electricity flowing in their homes and fading the darkness they had been living in. I was particularly happy to see the progressive involvement of the women during the project construction phase to the completion of the activities and operational phase.
I cherish the moment when the project committee handed the infrastructure to the local user’s committee. The involvement of local people of all ages from children, youth to old ones in the project was remarkable. It has been an amazing experience in the field where I observed unity among the people for the development of their community.
The locals have been thankful to all those involved directly and indirectly contributing to their place. While we were working with the community, they were adding their own ideas to diversify the use of electricity, such pumping water from a spring near to the powerhouse to the village.
Projects like these can be effective and create impact only when they are sustainable in nature. This can be achieved if the locals are involved in the design of the project, and equipped with knowledge and skills to maintain the infrastructure. Local community-based organisations could be trained and mobilized for training, monitoring, operation, and maintenance. Awareness campaigns can be introduced related to the technology, dissemination of technical and policy measures, awareness on subsidy policy and delivery mechanisms.
This project would not have been successful without financial support to engage with the communities. Because of ongoing support for this, we are able to continue working with the communities to evaluate the projects. The intervention has demonstrated that is is possible for us to move forward together and change lives of local people on one hand and on the other, preserve, conserve and protect the environment.