After an overnight train from Delhi to Kathgodam and another seven hour car ride on winding mountain roads, we arrived on Sunday at Avani, a community-based organisation in the village of Tripuradevi. The entire campus is powered by 8.5KW of solar energy per day. In a nation without a fully established power grid, where scheduled and unscheduled power cuts are part of daily life, it is remarkable that in this part of the remote rural Himalayas, the lights rarely go out.
Rainwater harvesting provides the campus with enough water for seven months of the year. During the remaining five months, water must be purchased and delivered by truck. Over the past several years news headlines report that water will be the most precious resource in the near future. I think that future is so near that we’re standing right in the midst of it, though only those living without a steady supply are so acutely aware.
When Avani first brought solar electricity to the Kumaon villages, many families couldn’t afford purchase the solar panels and lights for their communities. The income-generating activities through craft work came about as a means to cover the costs and build self-sustaining communities. Now the enterprise is self-funded. Over the last ten years, 1,800 homes have been solar electrified and are financially and technically independent.
Sustainable technology enables individuals to take advantage of other opportunities to improve their quality of life. It is the foundation and the enabler, but it’s not the whole story. The real is story is about people and what they do with the options and opportunities available to them once the technical foundation is in place. Once you have light to see each other’s faces after dark, study after school, and water to keep your bodies and your land from drying out in the sun, what’s possible then?