Global Himalayan Expedition accomplishes first ever Impact Tourism Initiative

India Infoline News Service | Mumbai | October 09, 2014 16:16 IST

Saeed Al Mamari, Rolf Palgard, Esther Wong, Rikke Maria Eriksenare no ordinary names. Saeedis a world renowned mountaineer who has scaled the tallestsummits,including the Mt. Everest,in each of the 7 Continents, Rolf is aPilot inthe Royal Danish Air force, Esther isa lifestyle writer and food critique in Hong-Kong, and Rikke is a seasoned Military Psychologist. They all come from diverse geographies, have differentaccomplished professions, and are surrounded by varied social operating environments. Yet they have one thing in common. They, among the 20 other participants representing 9 countries, trekked in the parching sunfor 2 days, towards the mountains and away from civilization, braved the rain in -3/-4 degree Celsius temperature,while their skin cracked and tanned, and crisscrossed narrow winding trails to climb over thefamous Konzke La pass at 16000ft, to finally reach the village of Sumda Chenmo.The village was an outpost during the ancient silk route and had never seen light in its 1000 years of existence.The participants representing India, Denmark, USA, UAE, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka,among others, worked hard for 3 days to install and setup the solar panels, install batteries, mount electrical wiring and fitlight bulb connections.The team installed three (3) DC Solar Microgrids, a first of its kind in the Himalayas,to power-up the entire village of Sumda chenmo. The grid also supports a DC LED television (TV), again a first of its kind in the region, custom built for this project.

According to Paras Loomba, GHE Founder and Expedition Leader“Around 7.00 pm on Aug 20, as the sun went down, the 121 energy efficient  LED bulbs bathed thevillage of Sumda Chenmo in a pool of incandescent white light, illuminating the ancient heritage. As soon as thegrid went live,the villagers spontaneously broke-off into singing and dancing ontraditional Ladakhi songs, and distributing locally brewed barley beer,Chhhaang. It was heartening to see the happiness on the face of the villagers and the participants alike. While one group had never known electricity, the other had never known life without it. They both had found a common ground in Sumda Chenmo, getting to know a bit about each other, with the electrification as the uniting factor.Before we knew it, the participants joined the celebrations only to find moist eyes of the smiling villagers, overwhelmed by a simple touch of technology in their lives. The ironyof it all is that we just leveraged a resource that the villagersalways had in abundance, sunlight, but one that they could never employ the means to tap into.We truly witnessed the human spirit and the collaborative conviction to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged.”

GHE 2.0 - The Journey

While GHE1.0 set up the Third Pole Education Base (E-Base) during its maiden Expedition last year, GHE 2.0 aimed at empowering the Ladakhi community by setting-up Solar Microgrids, providing electricity to areas which do not fall under the purview of the State or Central Government to provision a grid set up for electrification.

The journey which began on August 10thin Leh,focused on the holistic Himalayan experience, not only showcasing the heritage of the mighty Himalayasbut also stretching across local cultural connect, sustainability focused activities, and Tri-Adventure experience including – biking, trekking and rafting.

The GHE 2.0 team visited the Third Pole E-Baseat Mahabodhi and connected with the native communities, local leaders, and sustainability experts in the region.The students of Mahabodhi School performed the traditional Ladakhi dances to familiarize the participants with the local art and music, enabling themto connect with the local populace and customs. A heritage walk through the ancient city of Leh and its quaint lanes evoked the hearts and minds of the expedition members.

GHE 2.0, was a crew of highly motivated and driven personalities from across the world, who came together to make possible the unimaginable 1000 year old dream of lighting a remote Himalayan village. Each individual pushed his and her own physical and mental limits to do what was unthinkable in their achievable capacity.

The GHE team was supported in this endeavor by their Corporate and Local Partners -

Woodland, India’s leading outdoor adventure gear brand, was themerchandise sponsor for the expedition members for second consecutive year in a row.

Mrida, a Social Enterprise focused towards rural electrification and sustainable development, was the energy sponsors for the expedition and sponsored the setup of three (3) DC Solar Microgridsat Sumda chenmo.

Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Authority (LREDA), the nodal agency in Ladakh tasked with electrifying the region using renewable energy, helped us with localizing our technology,guiding the GHE team on local economic factors and environmental conditions, while its Engineers assisted with the grid setup.

Saeed, having scaled the Mt Everest twice, elaborates“I was motivated to join this Expedition solely on its objective to provide clean energy access to the villagers. I enjoyed every moment with the fellow participants, the kids, the nature, and the mountains. And I learnt that one doesn’t need big expensive Expeditions to prove oneself or make an impact. Unique expeditions such as GHE can actually go a long way in making a difference in lives of others. One just needs to find such opportunities. And I want to go back home with the message for my Middle East brothers and sisters to step out and explore the remote corners of the world and be a part of the change.”