“Light toh, Hydroger itu nataka time de poila moi kan pine tree khuri laga lamp itu jolai thakeshe. Itu jolai thakia time de toh moi kan beishe dok thakeshe especially moi kan ama kan. (Before we had the Hydroger, we used pine tree sticks as lamps and it was very difficult for us, especially us mothers).” ~ Mrs. Puashu, a Kinjung villager
And so unfolds one of the most inspiring stories of how a simple indigenous machine called the Hydroger brought light to Kinjung, a small village of 90 households in Tuensang District, 108kms south-east of Noklak, along the Indo-Myanmar border.
To reach there, one would have to go though perilous mountain roads that disappear during the monsoons due to landslides and flash floods. The villagers have to stock up on essentials like tea leaves, sugar, salt and oil during the summer months because they are most likely to be cut off from the nearest market. They have little or no medical aid. So to even imagine a 24/7 electricity in a place so remote was ludicrous until one of them heard of a machine called the Hydroger.
Mr. Thoungo, one the villagers and known as Baba, approached NEPeD (Nagaland Empowerment of People through energy Development) for a machine for his village. When he was told that the major requirement for the Hydroger to be functional was a perennial source of water with a steep drop, he went back to the village, sat down with the village council and asked the villagers to jointly dig an irrigation channel to bring the water from the source which was about 3kms away. Thus every Friday, all the men and woman would pack rice and go up the mountains to dig a power channel to bring light to their village.
When it was conveyed to NEPeD that the power channel was ready and the water been brought, the second task of transporting the machines to Kinjung from Dimapur through landslides and non-existent roads began. After three days of pushing vehicles and sleeping on the roadside in the middle of nowhere, the team, Er. Yanger Imchen (Co-ordinator CERES), Er. Moamanen Imchen, Meren, Inato and Wangean reached the village to begin the third arduous task of setting up the machines and laying power lines. And after three day, when the last CFL bulb had been fixed and the last plug point installed Kinjung had power to light up their nights for the first time.
The wave of change brought by the pico hydro turbine is astonishing. Not only has it given them electricity but has improved the quality of life through women participation.
Ms. Ayong Chang, team member NEPeD, went the extra mile to educate the women on sanitation, health, judicious use of resources through gardening and most importantly by giving them a voice in village decision making by insisting that there be a woman representative in the village Hydroger committee called NECK (NEPeD Energy Committee Kinjung).
The popularity of which was evident when a women only meeting was called and women of all ages came flocking to listen to the next revolutionary elocution by Ms. Ayong. They recounted days when they had to tend the fields, livestock, fetch pine wood for lamps, cook, clean and look after their children. Today, now that the pressure of fetching pine wood is out of the picture, with a kitchen garden nearby instead of faraway jhum fields for vegetables and livestock safely in pens, they now have more time for themselves and their children. They add that even their men folk stay at home and make baskets and daos in the evenings made possible by having lights, which they sell for some extra cash.
The villagers have also passed a resolution to conserve the catchment area and this perhaps is one of the biggest achievements of NEPeD. Moreover, the dwindling rare pine forest is regenerating because they do not need pine wood anymore to use as lamps. They also have two “Rural Engineers”, Shellim and Sangtsui, men from Kinjung who are trained to operate and maintain the machines. They often travel with the team on other installation projects too.
The Hydroger in Kinjung would not have been a success if the people had not taken ownership of the project and done everything they could to bring and keep the machine working. It would have not been a success if NEPeD team had not travelled through miles of mud and mire to Kinjung to install the machine and followed up after that. As dusk falls and the sun sets red over the horizon, pale white lights light up on the windows one after the other. Noisy children run and play as mothers rush home to serve the evening’s meal. Kinjung is the only village for miles and miles shining bright.
The team that went to Kinjung for the first Hydroger installation.