Much of Nagaland, India’s hilly northeastern province, has never been linked to the grid. According to a 2019 report by Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, the Indian government’s rural electrification scheme, just 55 percent of Nagaland’s 2,76,726 rural households were electrified in 2017.
All of them are now, at least according to government estimates. These do not necessarily imply that every house is electrified, merely households, nor do they indicate the amount of electricity available to each household.
After school, youngsters in communities like Kinjung traditionally assist in the fields. They would return home after midnight and study in the dim light cast by burning pine cones. According to M Mongtsoa, a minister of Kinjung church, a hydroger was built in 2010.
The availability of electricity in Nagaland has a significant impact on children’s ability to study, as well as the economy of rural areas.
Electrification in rural areas
Nagaland’s government established Nagaland Empowerment of People via Energy Development in 2007 to manage rural electrification. It aspired to improve livelihoods and expand opportunities by doing so.
“When we started in the early 2000s most of Nagaland’s villages did not get electricity from the grid,” Takum Chang, one of Nagaland’s Empowerment of People through Energy Development’s founding members, tells The Third Pole.
The crew chose to investigate how to create hydropower from Nagaland’s numerous streams.
In 2007, Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development purchased picogenerators from China and installed them. Water from streams rushes downhill and powers a turbine in these modest hydroelectric plants. The water mills used before the Industrial Revolution worked on the same basis.
Benefits for the locals
Kinjung’s residents work in fields far from their homes as an agricultural village. Previously, they had to return home before dark to do household chores. They can spend more time – and be more productive – in the fields now that they have access to electricity.
Toshi Longkuner, a farmer, uses electricity generated by a hydroger to light his farm and operate other machinery in Longkung village, Mokokchung district.
“Electricity has helped me do more work and hence employ more people,” Longkuner told The Third Pole.
Datui Zeliang, another farmer, from the Peren district, has orange, banana, and oak plantations as well as a fish farm. He utilizes light traps to keep pests away from his fruit trees, sorts produce after dark, and irrigates his crops with water from the hydrogen.
“Villagers now sort their vegetable produce at home at night,” said Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development’s Takum Chang. “Many of them have started weaving baskets.”
Nagaland’s streams are perennial, allowing for year-round electricity generation. However, due to this year’s poor monsoon, springs and streams are drying up across the state. Toshi Longkuner claims that his farm’s power generation peaks in the winter when there is little rain.
Droughts aside, the irregular weather brought on by climate change is causing increased floods in some parts of Nagaland.
“We factor in local knowledge during installation, and divert water away from the stream by a small weir,” said Imchen. “In case of a flash flood, the installation is safe and the weir can be repaired if damaged.”
Hydrogers in neighboring states
In neighboring states such as Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland Empowerment of People through Energy Development has installed 49 hydropower plants.
Donbok Buam runs Paradise Adventure Tours and Krang Shuri Adventure Tours in Meghalaya, a neighboring state. On-site lodging and dining are available, with electricity provided by hydrogers.
Buam has been able to provide more activities for tourists as a result of the electrification, which has improved his turnover and provided employment chances for villagers.
While Nagaland is now officially electrified, Imchen informed The Third Pole that the project will most likely continue. Hydrogen generators are still being requested by rural towns looking to expand their electrical capacity.