National Geographic : 1988 Nov
RINGING LIGHT to the roof of the world, Nepalese porters haul the last of four 200 meter lengths of pow er cable through the streets of Namche Bazar on the final leg of a grueling three-day climb from Lukla. Inaugurated in April 1988, the small hydroelec tric project to which the under ground cables were connected will ease the austere existence of 50 monks at the Thyangboche Monastery near Namche Bazar. Nepalese engineer Girish Kharel (left, at left) and American proj ect coordinator Broughton Co burn inspect the intake grille, through which glacial melt from Mounts Kangtega and Tham serku, in background, flows to a holding tank. From there it drops 90 meters through a pipe to a small turbine in a down stream powerhouse. The project is so simple in design that it was built with only 50 bags of cement. Requiring little maintenance, the system generates only 22 kilowatts of electricity, the amount needed to power four American homes. The monks at Thyangboche ration their cur rent judiciously, selling the small surplus to a few nearby lodges. Low-watt, energy efficient light bulbs use only 4 percent of the electricity. A few space heaters and coils for cook ing and heating water consume most of the balance. A 25-kilowatt hydro project at Namche Bazar lights the vil lage at night but provides too lit tle energy to replace firewood for cooking.