So did I mention I went trekking in Nepal? So, every day, does this girl I passed there, on her way to and from school:
But here’s why I wanted to post about this: see those power lines in the background? Well, this region south of Mt. Annapurna has no roads within ten miles — or rather, the steps she’s walking on are the road, plied by people and ponies. But every village up and down these foothills (each of which is as big as an Appalachian mountain; it’s 900 meters from the top of the one she’s on to the valley) has electricity, at least 8 hours a day. The electricity is driven by “micro-hydro” — small-scale hydroelectric turbines in streams and rivers in the valley bottoms. The one at the bottom of this valley generates just 5 kilowatts, but that’s enough to give everyone in this region enough power for their lighting, radios (there’s no TV reception in the area), and computers (there is internet though!). They get hot water from solar heaters. All of this is organized by the awesome ACAP, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project, which is simply the best such project I’ve ever seen.
Now, would 5 kilowatts be enough power for an American village? No. But Nepal is desperately, desperately poor, and for these people, the fact that they now have electric lighting and power for computers represents a fabulous leap from the lifestyle they experienced just a decade ago. And that’s part of the key to how we ought to be looking at minimizing the ecological impact of third-world development. Conservative enviro-pessimists point out that everyone in Asia is going to need more power, and that’s true. But they don’t need a lot more power to be able to achieve a huge improvement on their previous lifestyles. The power they do need can be achieved with clean hydropower, and without the kind of trash, pollution, environmental desctruction, and degradation of tourism potential that you’d get if everyone were buying diesel generators. (Besides which, how would they get the diesel fuel up all those steps?)
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