Project Background

The Background and the Challenge:

Dal bhat is rice and lentils - the national dish.

In the Himalayas there are tens of thousands of scattered villages and homes. The locations of these settlements were chosen long ago with 2 primary criteria in mind: access to a water source and land to grow food and sustain their animals. Many if not most of these settlements are still without electricity and the villagers are extremely poor. They are living on the margins of society, many being barely able to sustain themselves. Most of us take for granted the electricity in our homes and the ability to turn on a switch and have nice lighting for a myriad of uses like cooking, reading or just getting up to use the bathroom. In these villages, artificial light is available in the form of kerosene wick lamps. The light is very dim, the kerosene is expensive, and the smoke from the kerosene irritates the eyes and lungs. The open flame also poses a fire risk.

Last October’s (2009) trek took me to an off the beaten track area in the Nepal Himalaya. One particular village had a good source of water power located about 20 minutes walk from the village. The villagers could not afford to pay for a hydroelectric power system in part due to the expense of the transmission line that was about a mile away from the village. There is no power grid nearby or other power source likely to come to the village in the foreseeable future.

typical home in village Nepal

Our need for light is a given, and currently the lighting in these homes is inadequate, expensive, and injurious to one’s health. Watching village women struggle to cook in the dark or students trying to do homework by the minimal flickering light of a kerosene wick lamp is heartbreaking. Can we come up with an sustainable, affordable and better lighting alternative that costs less than kerosene without the inherent problems of kerosene? Can we do it with solar or very small scale hydropower and rechargeable batteries? I believe that not only is the answer is a resounding “YES”, but assuming that technological and organizational hurdles can be surmounted; there is tremendous scope for replication of this project in thousands of other locations throughout the Himalayas as well as other parts of the world. This would help achieve the goal of providing more and better lighting at a lower cost than kerosene lighting, while eliminating the health and fire problems associated with kerosene use. Other benefits include the ability to read and study after sunset, improved education opportunities especially for children and women, reduced demand for firewood, reduced CO2 emissions (one kerosene lamp produces 100 kg of CO2/yr.), significant cash savings providing money for food, health services and housing, portability, directionality and ruggedness.

If you’ve gotten this far make sure you read about the underlying technology.


  1. Which locations in Nepal is the project currently being implemented. ? Thanks, Rahul

    • Several villages in Lamjung district

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