Climate Action

Earth Day coordinator brings solar to Himalayan monastery

This post was originally published on Youth Ki Awaaz and has been edited to fit style guidelines for Earth Day Network.

Located high up in the Himalayas, Ladakh is a remote mountainous area of Northern India. Known for its pristine beauty and challenging terrain, the area is marked by far-flung, sparsely populated villages. As the terrain makes drawing grid lines difficult, most of Ladakh has little to no energy supply.

In October, Earth Day Network Coordinator Prerna Raturi and other women trekkers of the Global Himalayan Expedition took up a daunting task: to gift solar lighting to the 600-year-old Markha monastery in Ladakh.

Nestled on top of a hill, the Markha monastery faces a drop that rules out the set-up of a power grid. Although some houses around the monastery do have solar panels, these run for very short spells.

The group took a 10-day expedition, trekking to as high as 13,000 feet to transport the solar energy equipment and set it up in the Markha monastery. Raturi said the locals were overjoyed when the new solar set-up turned on.

“There were whoops and cheers on knowing that eight hours of light every day was now assured,” Raturi said.

Even on days with overcast skies and rain, there would be light. Inside the monastery, the centuries-old frescoes were clearly visible.

“It is now easier for the monks to read their books, pray and chant,” said the monastery’s head abbot.

Altogether, the team installed a 250-watt solar panel, 20 bulbs and a street light, complete with holders, wiring and switches. The street light on the hilltop floods the lanes and alleys in the village.

“Early mornings, days of snow and sleet meant there was hardly any light in the monastery during the annual festival that draws in people from far and near,” said Sonam Norbu, area councilor. “Now with this light, the festival is going to be a grand success.”

The expedition offset tons of carbon from the environment, as solar panels replaced the carbon-emitting fuel kerosene used in lamps in the monastery.

Raturi uses every opportunity to speak about the work she does as a consultant for Earth Day Network and encourages the wide section of people she meets to support Earth Day’s 50th anniversary.