Awareness Program on Environment Friendly Electrification in Phobjikha

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participants-phobelect17apr10.jpg17 April 2010 – As the long awaited grid electrification started in Phobjikha, RSPN and its stakeholders organized a mass awareness program for the community on 17th April 2010.  The awareness was mainly intended to sensitize the community on the significance of electrification from environmental perspective, safety measures, and also to seek community’s cooperation during implementation of the work.

Eight years ago more than 500 households in Phobjikha valley depended on lighted mebchey (pine wood resin) and kerosene lamps as a source of light. As an initiative to promote alternative energy and to compensate the absence of electric lighting in the area, the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) initiated a pilot project from 2003 to 2005 which supported 198 households and 22 institutions with solar lighting systems. The project was financially assisted by the Washington based Solar Electric Lighting Fund (SELF) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

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While there was a need for grid electricity in the valley, the sensitivity of the valley as a conservation area was an important concern both in the minds of the government and the RSPN. The environmentally friendly electrification required huge investment that was beyond the capacity of the government. In the mean time, RSPN felt that the basic needs of the people should not be compromised in the process of conservation and it continued to advocate and explore support for environmentally friendly electrification in the valley.

ParticipantsThe dream became a reality when the Austrian government showed keen interest to support the electrification in Phobjikha in 2007 mainly in recognition of the significance of the area for conservation. DOE, BPC and RSPN jointly underwent intensive planning giving high priority to the environmental sensitivity of the area, particularly the Black-necked Crane. The project was planned in such a way that no electrical infrastructure would be exposed in open, while the electric cable lines would be largely underground and those falling near the forest will be along the tree line. This will not only give fly-away routes to the birds but also maintain the aestheticism of the valley. The major work will be executed only during April to September, when the cranes are not there, to minimize disturbance to the cranes.  

RSPN hopes that such initiative will spread the message that development can happen along with conservation if planned properly and with concerted efforts of various stakeholders. It is also hoped that this example will help promote environmentally sensitive development in Phobjikha and elsewhere. 

The stakeholders include Bhutan Power Corporation, Wangdue Phodrang Dzongkhag, Divisional Forest and the executing contractor.  It was attended by the Wangduephodrang Dzongrab, the General Manger, BPC, Chief Forest Officer, Division of Forest, Nima Powers (Contractor), Executive Director of RSPN, Gewog representatives and other officials.