The difficult living conditions of the Ladakhis
Living conditions in the high altitude deserts and valleys of the Himalayas are extremely difficult: very low temperatures in winter (down to -30°C), extreme isolation (the passes are closed for 6 months a year), sparse vegetation and no adequate means of heating. The lack of firewood and the high price of imported fuel, make this region very vulnerable to energy scarcity. Women and children spend about 2 months each summer collecting biomass residue and cow dung for cooking and heating.
The very low indoor temperatures in winter make the living conditions unhealthy and limit the development of income generating economic activities.
Energy in the mountains: the passive solar way
However the region has exceptionally high sunshine for more than 300 days a year. This asset deserved to be exploited. Since 2000, several pilot projects implemented by GERES have proven that it is possible to save up to 60% on energy by integrating basic and reliable passive solar techniques into buildings, together with the insulation of living spaces. The bioclimatic techniques used are:
The Trombe wall
Trombe Wall (named after its inventor) consists of putting up a glass window against a wall, with a few centimetres gap. The wall is painted in black and exposed to the South. During the day the sun's radiation warms up the wall through the window, which then releases the heat into the room all through the night.
Direct benefitThe direct benefit is the renovation of existing windows. Windows exposed to the South are widened and replaced by double glazing. This simple technology, that doesn't modify the traditional architecture of the house, is much appreciated by the villagers, especially because the rooms have much more light.
This technology consists in the construction of a wooden frame on the southern wall of the house. A polystyrene tarpaulin is fixed to this frame forming a proper veranda. This captures solar radiation and the greenhouse heat is transferred to the indoor rooms through an open window during the day. This window is closed at night to keep the warm air indoors. At the same time, the veranda makes a new room where many activities can be carried out.
GERES technically trains and supports its local partners (Indian NGOs), with a view to transferring know-how and competence in the use of local materials.