Reaching Darbang in Myagdi district is an ordeal. The rough roads leading from the district capital of Beni are impassable during the rains, requiring you to wade through rivers and perform balancing acts across landslides to get there. So it’s surprising that once you reach there, what greets you is not a sleepy rural village, but a bustling center of economic activity.
The town of Darbang boasts industries including a metal workshop, several furniture manufacturers, a cement block manufacturer, a noodle factory, poultry farms and dairy farms. All these industries have sprung up within the last four years, after the Ruma Khola Micro Hydro Power Plant came into operation in 2009.
The 51 kilowatt Ruma Khola micro-hydro supplies electricity to 700 households in five villages, including Darbang. This micro-hydro is constructed as part of the World Bank’s support to renewable energy generation in Nepal, implemented through the government of Nepal’s Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC).
Just 100 meters from the micro-hydro power plant is a poultry farm owned by Laxmi Rasalli. 27-year-old Rasalli is raising 300 chickens. She sells most of them in the busy meat shop that she has opened in the ground floor of her home. Electricity is a major requirement for a poultry farm. Chicks need continuous heat and light for 45 days until they grow.
“I could not have started raising these chickens if we didn’t have electricity,” says Rasalli.
The micro-hydro was built, and is run by the community. With encouragement from AEPC, the community came together to build a micro-hydro that could meet the energy needs of five neighboring villages. Incorporating five villages, the community gathered a construction committee consisting of 89 people.
AEPC helped the construction committee with feasibility studies, and technical aspects of construction. The operators and managers to run the micro-hydro were also trained by AEPC. AEPC also makes a grant of Rs. 125,000 per kilowatt of electricity generated by the community.
“Availability of these grants encourages the community to get together and start work on securing their own energy future,” said Bijaya Wagle of AEPC.
This grant from AEPC, together with grants from the Village Development Committee, and District Development Committee all helped establish the micro-hydro, while the community contributed labor, and received a loan from the Agriculture Development Bank to secure the rest of the resources. The micro-hydro construction committee was in charge, overseeing all aspects of construction, including raising funds, finding labor, and management oversight.
Every month, the micro-hydro raises Rs. 70,000 in utility bills paid by its users. The money raised is used to pay back loans, perform regular maintenance and pay the salaries of the operator on staff.