Sumda Chenmo, Ladakh

Mrida took up a task which was not just about development, but also of lighting up lives in the challenging terrains of the Himalayas in Ladakh – setting up what would probably be the 1st DC Solar Microgrid in the area. Tucked away in a remote corner of the Zanskar Valley, with a population of just 80, but a 1000 year old Buddhist Village with a rich, ancient heritage, Sumda Chenmo seemed far from seeing the light of development in the normal course, having waited for electricity for the last 67 years since independence. Rising to the challenge, and after initial discussions with local authorities and the village head, Team Mrida started its journey towards illuminating the ancient heritage and the lives of Sumda Chenmo.

The team trekked in parching sun towards the mountains and away from civilization and braved the rain in -4 degrees Celsius carrying solar panels, batteries and wire bundles on horse backs and ponies. The trek crisscrossed narrow winding trails to climb over the famous Konzke La pass at 16000 ft to finally reach its destination, 3 days and many cracked, tanned skins later.

Sumda Chenmo was an outpost during the ancient silk route and had never seen light in its one thousand years of existence. It took three days to install and set up the solar panels and batteries, mount the electrical wiring, and fit the LED bulb connections. 3 DC Solar Microgrids were installed, a first of its kind in the area, with the capacity to power-up the entire village. The grid also supports a custom built DC LED television, again a first of its kind in the region.

It was around 7:00 pm on 20th August 2014, when the sun began to set, that 121 energy efficient LED bulbs permeated Sumda Chenmo with warm white light – illuminating the village, its lives, and its ancient heritage…….The time when the grids went live was arguably one of the most momentous occasions in the history of Sumda Chenmo and for Team Mrida. As the villagers spontaneously broke out into a song and a dance, it was heartening to see the happiness on these faces who had never known life with electricity. The irony is that it involved simply leveraging a resource that the village was always blessed with – sunlight – but which it could somehow not employ the means so far, to tap into.

Truly – a living example of human spirit and collaborative conviction to make a difference to the lives of the lesser privileged.

It took passion, 3 days, and a few 240 Watt DC Microgrids to illuminate a village that had seen no electricity for 1000 years of its existence. The Mrida grids substitute unhealthy and unsafe kerosene which apart from being transported month after month across vast distances, also polluted the pristine environment. Access to energy has extended the work hours and the productivity of Sumda Chenmo inhabitants, providing them with options for livelihood generation and income enhancement – local handicrafts, weaving, and tourism home stays among others. This has provided increased opportunities for children to study, and for the village to be better connected to the outside world through the installed TV set. Finally, it has fostered better community engagement, with villagers getting together, and contributing money as well as efforts to maintain and sustain the DC Micro grids.

Another win-win situation and source of pride and satisfaction for Team Mrida, and another initiative in keeping with the Mrida Vision, Mission and Philosophy….