Ladakh, which is also known as ‘The Land of High Passes’, is India’s one of the most heavenly places. Though a barren land, it is surrounded by high ice-capped mountains which are truly breathtaking and picture-perfect. Ladakh is one of the most visited places in India has been a great tourist spot and has attracted tons of people every year not only for tourism but also for filming.
As they say, sometimes beauty can be a curse! Due to Ladakh’s raw and nearly untouched scenic beauty, resources are scarce and hard to get by.
Ladakh is the highest and also one of the most spectacular plateaus of India. It is a biker’s paradise. Filled with treacherous terrains, harsh winters and rocky mountains, it creates a natural backdrop of serenity and grandeur. It is seated at an average height of 9,800 feet above sea level, with its magnificent peaks surrounding it ranges from 16,400 ft to 23,000 ft.
Ladakh receives very less rainfall through the year due to the position of the great Himalayas which creates a rain shadow effect, preventing the monsoon from penetrating. So there main source of water is snowfall.
The Current Scenario of Electricity in Ladakh
You would imagine that in this 21st century and the availability of technology how come a place like Ladakh be so left behind?
Lighting up Ladakh is no easy task. It is very unforgiving, harsh and has very few sources of resources. The native people have lived for centuries without basic health amenities and have only relied upon traditional practices.
Electricity in Ladakh comes from Two Sources
- About two-thirds of the power is supplied using diesel generators. As we all know diesel is a by-product of crude oil and is also one of the major sources of carbon emissions. Diesel and Petrol are taxed heavily by the Government, around USD 4.27 per gallon or Rs 84 per Litre which almost double the price in the US.
- There is also a hydel power plant on the Indus river at Stakna, about 40 km upstream of Leh city which acts as a secondary source of electricity in Ladakh during the summer. But it freezes up in the winter for two months, which makes the diesel engines the only source of power.
It was only after the 72 years of India’s Independence that Kasmir was finally connected to the national electricity grid by PowerGrid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL). According to the official tweet by PGCIL on 11th January 2020 states that it is connected to the national grid through a 220 kV transmission system.
Ladakh successfully connected to Kashmir with 220kV transmission system. JKPDD & POWERGRID test charged 220kV Alusteng-Dras-Kargil-Khalsti-Leh TL along with 220/66kV S/s at Dras, Kargil, Khalsti & Leh. Ladakh will get power in winters & surplus power will be evacuated in summers. pic.twitter.com/Yqqc5oMjot
— POWERGRID (@pgcilindia) January 11, 2019
But, there is a Catch
Due to Ladakh’s difficult terrain, most of its region is still not connected to the national grid system. During the summer season, the demand is met by the hydel power plant but during the winters the demand considerably increases. Supply from hydel plants during the winter seasons is low due to the freezing of the river. As a result, the power demand is satisfied with the use of local diesel generators. It now seems that the only saviour for Ladakh is Solar power.
Solar to the Rescue!
The localities have been using solar products such as solar lamps, solar panels etc. in their houses in recent years. Some are NGO backed or are crowdfunded. People are educated and trained on how to install and take advantage of the system.
Ladakh receives an average of 300 sunny days throughout the year, which is ideal for a solar plant. As it is located at a very high altitude, facing in the rainshadow side of the Himalayas leads to the lesser cloud.
The much-awaited Solar Power plant was announced by the Honourable Prime Minister on the Independence day (15th August 2020). The aim is to make Ladakh, a union territory to be declared as carbon neutral, after the completion of the 7.5GW plant.
The cost of the plant will be around Rs 4,500 crore and is estimated to be completed in 2023 saving 12,750 tonnes of carbon emissions in every year of operation. The operation will be executed in several phases to complete this massive project. The first phase will be of 2500 MW grid-connected capacity in the Kargil District and 5000 MW capacity in Leh District.
Ladakh is one of the many places in India which is on the road to renewable energy. I do hope that we also slowly adapt to the change of mindset and embrace this technology.
This pandemic has given us proof of how we are polluting our own home and how only we can make things better by just changing our mindset by choosing things differently.