Sengor’s micro hydel project transforms their lives infinitely for the better

Power: When a home gets power supply, it empowers women.  That’s what happened in Sengor chiwog in Saling, Mongar when a micro hydropower plant (MHP) was built eight years ago.

It reduced the burden on women of gathering firewood, particularly during winters, when the men leave behind their wives and children to take the cattle to lowland grazing pastures.

Tshogpa Kelzang Peljor said that all homes in Sengor today have electric cooking appliances and water heaters.  They have replaced their traditional mud stoves with steel smokeless stoves, which are more efficient and generate more heat.

“With electricity, women are now able to spend time in the evenings on non-formal education,” Kelzang Peljor said. “This is one of the most important changes it has brought to the community.”

With funds from the UNDP and the department of energy, the micro hydropower plant has electrified all 21 households in Sengor village.

Besides the benefits, what the Sengor MHP has shown is that, by building the community’s capacity, it was possible to get a community in the country to successfully establish suitable electricity tariffs for a local MHP.  It has revealed too that it was possible to implement stringent credit control procedures to ensure prompt and full payment of electricity use, utilise MHP electricity sales revenues to sustainably pay for local community operators and to use surplus revenue to gradually accumulate funds to cover ongoing operational and maintenance costs.

Sengor community’s average load is currently around 7kW (kilowatt), with the maximum load estimated to be around 25kW.

The plant’s operator Yeshi Nidup, said that, since its establishment, they hadn’t faced problems in running the powerhouse.  He said the powerhouse supplies electricity to more than 60 households, including, school, hotels and offices of the animal husbandry, Department of Road Workers and other institutions.

The operator collects about Nu 8,000 to 10,000 monthly from the electricity bills, which is used to pay the salary of the operator and the community’s chairman.  The remaining amount of Nu 1,500 to Nu 2,000 is deposited in the community account.

The community tshogpa is the chairman of a seven-member management committee (MC) and ensures the plant’s effective functioning and financial sustainability.

Pema Choezom, 45, is one of the beneficiaries in the village.  She said in the past, girl students spent their winter vacation collecting firewood.  Today, they stay home and read.

Another farmer, Choki Wangmo 33, said, they were able to keep their homes clean and smoke free.  When there was no electricity, the women used to attend non-formal education only for an hour.  Today, their classes go on for two hours. “And we don’t have to buy diesel and kerosene for lighting purposes,” she said.

Tashi Phuntsho, Mongar