Immediately in the aftermath of the Great Earthquake of 25 April 2015, Digo Bikas Institute in collaboration with Gham Power Nepal and Helambu Education and Livelihood Partnership (HELP-Nepal) installed community Solar System in Ichok VDC. Our colleague Jony Mainaly spoke to Sancha Bahadur Tamang, a resident of Ichok over phone to follow-up on how the Solar system is working. The article below is the excerpt from Jony and Sancha’s phone conversation:
Thirty four year old Sancha Bahadur Tamang, resident of Ichowk Village Development Committee (VDC), Ward No.5, Sindhupalchowk District survived the deadly earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015 followed by another major earthquake on 12 May 2015. The earthquake claimed 6 human lives in the Ward he resides with almost all the houses totally demolished. “The community where I stay was in an utter shock. After a narrow escape, I and other survivors got actively involved in help rescuing neighbors from the rubble,” Sancha shared. When night approached, to the their dismay, there was no electricity to do away with the sense of terror that had traumatized the whole community. Their fear intensified as aftershocks continued frequently and the apprehension that another big quake may hit them again. Adding fuel to the fire, their mobile phone started to get switched off with no electricity to recharge it. “When our phones started turning down, we felt as if we are isolated from the rest of world and will die before any rescue and relief arrives.” Right after the earthquake they had hard time connecting with their near ones as the network jammed up. When network started to work a bit, their phones charge started to die out. “It was a total nightmare,” Sancha moaned.
The Ichowk VDC had good facility of electricity before it was hit by earthquake. After a week of earthquake Digo Bikas Institute in collaboration with Gham Power Nepal and Helambu Education and Livelihood Partnership-Nepal helped install Sancha’s neighborhood with a communal solar powered facility. The solar system has capacity to charge about 300 phones/day and light one street light during night. “This is a great relief to our burning heart. It has changed our life substantially since we are able to communicate with our loved ones; we are able to ask the concerned authorities with the needed support. This has worked as both material and psychological support system. We feel we are brought back to the world where the phone charging facility has fulfilled a void that the earthquake has brought to us and hope is a long respite before we actually encounter any disaster”, Sancha reflects amid fear.
The community which was given with one street light facility along with phone charging facility has now decided to use the system only charging their phones where the residents from adjacent villages walk a long way to get their phone charged. They are charging more than 500 phones/day which means they cannot light up their community during the night. The people have prioritized communication through Solar powered mobile phones over lighting at this difficult time. As the system that was installed in the community has capacity only to charge mobile phones, Sancha and his villagers are waiting desperately for a community Solar micro grid that can meet the basic electricity needs of the villagers which include lighting, mobile charging, food/seed grinding mill, health post refrigeration, etc.
Hundreds of communities around the country are in dire need of access to electricity to meet their material and psychological need. Unable to fend for their needs at this stage of devastation, they require helping hands that we all can be.
To support Digo Bikas Institute’s initiative to ‘Building Back Better Nepal With Solar Power’, click here.