Wednesday, September 14, 2011

‘A mesmerizing fortnight’- Arnav Saxena shares his experiences from the First Spiti Gold Solar Project held in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh from June 11th to 25th, 2011

 Award Partner Ecosphere presented a unique opportunity to Award participants to complete their adventurous journey and their residential project (Gold Level) in Spiti this summer. Ecosphere founded by Gold Holder and Gold Award Holders’ Society of India President- Ms. Ishita Khanna is a social enterprise dedicated to sustainable development in the fragile cold desert of Spiti. In June 2011, a group of nine Award Participants from spent two weeks successfully building a Solar Passive Bath (as in the banner) in the remote Buddhist nunnery of Morang Village, Spiti. This project will allow the nuns to save over 3.5 tons of fuel wood/annum and provide ready access to hot water in the winters when temperatures dip to – 35 degrees centigrade. Arnav Saxena, one of the Project participants from The Scindia School, Gwalior shares his experiences!

Getting dirty in the mud and having fun working amidst the beautiful Himalayas- the highest mountain range in the world, the calm and pure winds at an average altitude of 4000metres above sea level, the simple yet sumptuous meals with the local Spitians in their cozy mud homes… all of these would just have been a mere desire if I had not applied for the Gold Spiti Project.

The much-awaited day arrived on 11th June, and we met the entire Spiti Group in Delhi. We met Daniel- an Award Participant from Hebron School Ooty, Olga- Volleyball coach and Award Holder from Russia, Tanushree- Award Participant from Open Awards Centre in Delhi and Nivedita- Communications Manager and Award Leader from National Office. We boarded the overnight bus to Shimla, where Angdui-Ecosphere Guide and our escort to take us to Kaza- the capital of Spiti, met us. Our arrival in Kaza was delayed by five hours due to a landslide! I faced high altitude sickness and could not go with the group to Key Monastery the next morning. Luckily, I overcame the sickness by taking Diamox and resting.

That afternoon, we were briefed about the Solar Passive Bath Project in the nunnery of Morang. The construction of a solar bath is of great significance in this region as burning great amounts of fuel wood contribute to black carbon emissions and rapid snowmelts of glaciers at a local level to CO2 and. Our project would enable the local people to cut down on emissions and also to have better hygiene through regular availability of hot water.

We left for Morang the next day, assembled all the tents and toilets and played volleyball. Our target was to build an 8 feet high room from just wet mud and rocks, a true challenge! After spending 4 days working really hard, getting really dirty and having a lot of fun with, we left the newly constructed walls to dry and left for our Exploration to the Langza, Komic (the highest village in Asia) and Demul-remote villages where we did home stays to experience the Spitian culture. We even hiked up Balari Top located at 5200 metres from Demul. This was the most challenging but scenic hike.

We returned to Moraang to complete the roof and install the solar heater with massive water capacity of 200 litres.  As we finished the project, we realized how far we had come from struggling to lift a spade in the high altitude, being shy to interact to becoming a strong, confident and well knit team. We watched the King of Spiti inaugurate the Structure with the nuns chanting prayers proudly! We were delighted to have completed the Project in record time. We realized that this was the end of a challenging yet amazing experience, the memories and friendships will last us our lifetimes! Thank you Ishita, Ecosphere and Award India teams. 

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