IEEE Smart Village Celebrates National Geographic Trek

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Posted On: 08.09.2019

– By Dan Estes, Paras Loomba

PISCATAWAY, NJ –. In August 2016, IEEE Smart Village volunteers helped support Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) in an ambitious project to provide power to the remote high-altitude village of Linghsed, located in Ladakh, India, in the Himalayan Mountains. This venture was recorded by National Geographic film crews, concluding with its inclusion in one of their Breakthrough Season 2 episodes. Entitled “Power to the People”, it first aired on June 6th, 2017. This program has now been translated into 45 languages and seen in 171 countries. Copies of the documentary are available on Amazon Smile by searching for National Geographic Breakthrough Season 2. This documentary is memorable for its stunning scenery, harsh conditions and colorful, appreciative monks who received power for the first time in their 900-year-old monastery.

The original trek consisted of 15 volunteers and GHE staff members. It took months of planning and coordination with the National Geographic team, the solar power system suppliers, and the local stakeholders involved. The trek to Ladakh took nine days, using a combination of 9 four-wheel drive vehicles, 23 pack animals, and 11 Sherpas who strapped the equipment on their backs for the last push to the village. The team installed 2300 meters of wiring, 121 DC lights, and 13 solar micro-grids in 5 days, all the while being followed by the NatGeo film crews.

Global Himalayan Expedition has continued to light the remote villages and has now completed 94 villages serving an estimated 42,000 people. Paras Loomba, CEO of GHE, has recently returned to the Ladakh village. He observed the people are now enjoying LED lights, small DC appliances, and Internet access. What some may consider small improvements have had profound impacts in the village. Children are now able to read and study at night. Visitors to the village are amazed to find that they have access, thanks to a satellite downlink and the solar power, to worldwide connectivity of the Internet. This has opened the educational opportunities for the students in the community to worlds that before were unimaginable.

The councilor of Lingshed, Hon. Sonam Dorje, expressed his appreciation for the electrification of the village. “Through the efforts of Global Himalayan Expedition, we now have a community with opportunities. The power from the solar system allows us to have more businesses, more tourism, and better schools.”, he said.

A key part of GHE’s success has been the growing area of eco-tourism. GHE won the 2018 World Tourism award for sustainable development for coordinating treks to other remote villages. They were also recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) for working on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 7, “Affordable and Clean Energy”. Volunteers from around the world can sign up for the challenge to trek into the Himalayas at heights of up to 4500 meters to empower a remote village. The GHE team guides the volunteers and coordinates the logistics of the adventure.

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