Arunachal Pradesh, India’s land of the rising sun has enough hydropower to meet the requirement of eastern India. But Tawang, the hub of Buddhism on the northwestern tip of this frontier state, is hit by frequent power disruptions. So the 330-year-old Gaden Namgyal Lhatse or Tawang Monastery, one of the most revered pilgrimages after Potala Palace in Lhasa, turned to “Buddha’s friend”, the sun, to meet its energy requirement.
Three years ago, Abbot Tulku Rinpoche and some 450 lamas of the monastery decided to install five 1000-litre solar water heaters atop a two-storey building flanking the Dukhang (main prayer hall).
“Landslides and snowstorms often lead to power disruption... We had the solar water heaters installed primarily to ensure warm water for the lamas even when there’s electricity,” said Lobsang Thapke, secretary of Tawang Monastery Society.
Indian religious institutions have been more than proactive in using renewable energy sources. Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh has the world’s second largest solar energy driven community kitchen — after the Vatican — saving some 30,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
Tawang Monastery’s decision inadvertently sent a haloed message to the state and became an advertisement for the Arunachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency (Apeda) to push for solar lighting and water heating in remote areas along the border with China.
“The idea of installing solar water heaters on Tawang Monastery could have been divine intervention, but we are glad to have started the go-solar campaign from there,” Apeda director Marki Loya told HT from Itanagar. “We then targeted the civil hospital and a public school in Tawang for solar water heaters.”
The Buddha’s ‘blessing’ has also seen Apeda setting up solar photovoltaic panels atop 38 isolated households in the district’s border areas. Besides, 546 border villages in other districts have also been provided solar lighting. These villages had been in darkness until a couple of years ago.