Nature has gifted Nepal ten hours of sunshine on an average that can be used for generating energy for domestic consumption
For the first time in Nepal three remote villages in Okhaldhunga and Khotang districts have been connected with a micro-solar grid entirely powered by solar panels built with initiative from local communities and grant assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Harkapur village in Okhaldhunga and Kaduwa and Chyasmitar villages in Khotang were illuminated round the clock after they built 35 kilowatts of electricity from solar panels along with battery backup for night time. A total of 540 people in 83 households are taking benefits from the micro-solar plant and an additional 25 local businesses are also using solar energy. The energy supplied from the solar panel system will not only provide electricity to the local communities but also help reduce carbon emission. These villages are away from the national grid, so they opted for solar energy instead of micro-hydro power project which is expensive and usually takes a lot of time to construct. An ADB official said that the solar micro-grid the ADB is piloting provides clean, cost-effective, local solution involving private sector that will change the lives of these communities and serve as a model for other far-flung villages.
ADB officials have estimated that the costs of micro-solar grid will be almost half the cost of kerosene used to light a household. It will also contribute to preserving environment as it will avoid 41 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission every year. The programme with financial and technical assistance from ADB has provided immense opportunity to local communities for setting up small scale industries, agro-processing and dairy chillers, among others. The local communities are required to pay a certain amount of money as electricity tariff for running the project on a sustainable manner. The project is managed by Halesi Solar Minigrid Company Limited which shouldered the responsibility of building it.
Although it has been more than 100 years since the Pharping-based micro-hydropower was built, about 58 percent of the population is still deprived of electricity. Most of the micro-hydropower projects built in the rural parts of the country do not provide services to all the villages. Till date the country was relying only on water resources to generate energy. The government has also come up with a policy of energy-mix to tap abundant potential of energy from solar and wind. In its latest policy announcement on energy strategy the government has decided to add about 15 percent of energy from solar and wind out of the total energy to be generated from hydro-power. This policy is expected to give a boost to the private sector and local communities to make good investment on alternate energy. Nature has gifted Nepal ten hours of sunshine on an average that can be used for generating energy for domestic consumption. The hills and mountains have high solar intensity best-suited for solar and wind farming. In order to encourage the private sector on alternate energy and to make it cost effective, the government should lease out the unused, fallow, steep and sloppy hills to private and local communities for a certain period of time just like what it has done to the hydropower projects.
For decades Nepal has discouraged child marriage through legislation and awareness programmes. The same is true of other social malpractices, such as the dowry system, which are much more prevalent in the Tarai belt than in other regions. A recent report says that the Saptari district perhaps has the largest percentage of child marriages of all the 75 districts of the country. According to the Child Marriage and Dowry Elimination National Campaign Nepal, 83 percent marriages in Saptari last year were marriages involving couples, at least one of them, below 18 years of age. Those below 15 accounted for 28 percent. But this practice seems to be increasing in the hilly districts too.
Indeed, child marriage has been taking place for centuries in Nepal, rather in the South Asian sub-continent as a whole. Parents perhaps think that better education for the girls will make it necessary for them to find better educated bridegrooms who will fetch bigger dowry, making things much more difficult for parents without much property and income.
A version of this article appears in print on March 16, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.