Photo by Américo Alves
The Himalayas are fascinating: the youngest mountain range in the world, formed by the collision of the Indian subcontinent with mainland Asia millions of years ago; full of breathtaking biodiversity (whose rapid thinning is… yes, a post for another day), locus of the highest peaks on the planet… and home to millions of people.
The human population of the Himalayas are religiously and culturally diverse: Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists- all these people (and more!) call the Himalayas their home.
And as with any place on the literal edge of the political map (at least in the case of the Indian Himalayas), a major chunk of the population does not have the advantages of Internet. The isolation of the Indian Himalayan population is more than just physical- many, many areas are cut off from the rest of the country (and the world) due to the absence of an internet connection- the access to the world of information on the net, as well as the communications systems it offers, have long been out of reach.
For the residents of Lingshed, Ladakh, though, this is no longer the case. a group of volunteer engineers from the non-profit group Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) installed a solar-powered microgrid at the Lingshed Monastery. The venerable monastery is 900 years old, but it has entered the 21st century in style.
Each microgrid consists of a 250-watt PV (PhotoVoltaic) panel, a pair of 12-volt lead-acid batteries specifically designed for solar-powered systems, and around thirty 3-watt LED light bulbs.
According to Paras Loomba, head of GHE Using direct current (DC) rather than alternating current (AC) makes sense for an off-grid setting like Lingshed, “The main power grid runs on AC, but solar panels run on DC. So, if you can run the LEDs on DC, then you don’t lose efficiency in converting to AC.”
AC, DC, what does it matter? (No bad puns about the band, you’re welcome) The point is that the good people of Lingshed (and trekkers that visit the area) now have the ability to stream music by bands like ACDC. (Aaaand I lied).
Information and connectivity create two things that we often take for granted- opportunity and agency. Leh-Ladakh figures in the imagination of the country as a tourist destination, or a shooting location thanks to Ranchordas Shamaldas Chanchad aka Phunsukh Wangdu aka this guy:
Just look at the background. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
But the Ladakhi narrative should be more than just about being a pretty backdrop for a Bollywood hero. When you have information and connectivity, you can draft a new narrative for yourself- this is agency. And this is what Lingshed now has. The chance to script their own story- not for the screen, but for themselves.