Astro Stays Bring Tourists, and Solar Power, to Himalayan Villages

An Indian social business is leading Himalayan treks to set up solar micro-grids in remote mountain villages
The company has brought solar electricity to more than 130 Indian villages
The company has brought solar electricity to more than 130 Indian villages

An Indian social business that leads Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) has brought solar electricity to more than 130 Indian villages while setting up homestays for&nbsptourists&nbspthat has generated more than $100,000 in income for villagers.

By providing clean energy and livelihoods, the company has helped preserve fragile ecosystems and bridged the gender gap by training local women to become entrepreneurs.

The project has so far provided solar capacity totalling 360 kilowatts, thus avoiding about 35,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, according to a UN estimate.

GHE also trains local youth and women to become electricians, and helps women set up homestays and &ldquoastro-stays&rdquo that offer stargazing at night on solar-powered telescopes.

The project has won a United Nations climate award. Now they plan to expand the work to other countries who are facing similar challenges around global warming and employment issues.  

Fast-dropping cost for solar power combined with plenty of available sunlight have made mini-grids and micro-grids an affordable option in these villages.

GHE identifies villages that lack access to reliable electric power, sometimes trekking up to six days to reach them. And they involve travellers in this. More than 1,300 travellers have so far paid up to $3,500 each to join the hikes, with about a quarter of the charge going towards setting up the solar grids. The tourists work alongside engineers to install the micro-grids and fixtures, including street lights and LED lights, fans and mobile charging points in homes.

The COVID-19 crisis has derailed GHE&rsquos expeditions this year. But the organisation plans to expand tours to Nepal, Madagascar and Sumatra next year, and is partnering with other similar community-based tourism initiatives in Kenya, Mongolia, Indonesia and Kyrgyzstan. 

If you are interested in joining one of their trips, check out their website for details.

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