Because we live in such a rural area, the government provided electricity is not a consistent 24 hour facility, therefore as our efforts towards self-sustainable “off-the-grid living”, we make use of solar energy as much as possible.
Our center resides in the small Garhwali village of Khumera, in Rudraprayag District, Uttarakhand, along the Mandakini River, nearly 45km downstream from Kedarnath (at altitude of 3,553 meters), 5km upstream from Guptakashi (at altitude of 1,319 meters). With the snow covered Himalayas in sight, our climate is quite moderate in the summer, rarely reaching much above 25 degrees Celsius; we get four months of consistent rain during the monsoon; and during the winter season, however the temperature may drop below zero with occasional sleet and hail, we rarely get much snow cover. All this considered, warm or hot water is a basic necessity for our daily lives, and until recently we (like most of our neighbors) have been heating water on the fire.
We currently have capacity for 40 people to stay at Space for Nurturing Creativity, Shyamavan, however most of the time we are around 25 residents (approximately 50-50% adult to children ratio) living here at a consistent basis. One can imagine how much time it used to take away from our school activities just for the entire household to take a bath: how much effort to go into the forest, chop trees into pieces small enough to carry back to our center, to keep a fire going, heating pot after pot throughout the day until everyone has showered and washed their clothes by hand. During the monsoon keeping wood dry enough to light a fire is another issue, our priority being to keep those dry logs for cooking meals. Furthermore we recognize trees are not unlimited in supply, the more firewood we use the more we contribute to the deforestation of our local environment, so much that we could not possibly make up the difference by planting so many new trees each year.
Because we live in such a rural area, the government provided electricity is not a consistent 24 hour facility, especially during monsoon when electricity can go out for nearly a week at a time, and in extreme cases like the recent Kedarnath Disaster, we did not have electricity for more than a month and a half. Therefore unlike most city residents, the possibility of our using electric rods to heat water one bucket at a time, or installing electric water heaters in the bathrooms, is not a feasible option.
We do however get consistent enough sunshine and over the years have begun to make use of two small solar powered lamps portable enough to carry around our center as necessary and through which we could charge a mobile phone. After the 2013 Kedarnath Disaster, as part of our participation in relief efforts, we were given several more portable solar lamps and three solar plates to set up on our roof, which now power six room lamps in major areas of our center.
In 2014 through the support of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, Sudarshan Saur gave us a 40% subsidy per solar water heater, which costs Rs 40000 each, we were able to install five solar water heater systems providing us with the capacity to maintain 1500 liters of hot water. Till now we have never run out of hot water, even during the monsoon when it may be cloudy for days in a row.