Meet the team: Ganga Acharya
In Nepal, Renewable World has installed 29 solar-powered water pumping systems (otherwise known as SolarMUS: Solar Multiple Use Water System) in rural villages across districts that lack access to water resources. Before the installation of this technology, community members often had to carry water from its source uphill to the village – an extremely strenuous journey. With the installation of a SolarMUS, water is pumped directly into the village, cutting back on the time and effort needed to collect water, and providing surplus for irrigating crops during the dry season.
Renewable World has two Regional Officers who are based in our project districts and who work at the community level to deliver the SolarMUS projects. One of them is Ganga Acharya from Chitwan. Ganga has a degree with diploma in Civil Engineering from the Western Regional Campus of Nepal, and 20 years of experience working in the field of renewable energy, as well as with several NGOs. He joined our team on 19 January 2015 (he actually remembers the exact date!), and has helped deliver our SolarMUS, Biogas, Hydraulic Ram Pump and other water pumping projects.
Life as a Regional Officer
As Regional Officer, Ganga is responsible for seven to eight projects at a time and moves to each region depending on where he is needed. Ganga is currently located in Surkhet near Nepalgunj in the Midwest of Nepal, 106 km from the southern border, where he also worked for nearly two years when he first joined the Renewable World team. In Nepalgunj, temperatures can reach 46 degrees, making sleep impossible.
“After two o’clock in the night we could sleep slightly”, he said, laughing. In a more serious manner he added, revealing his enthusiasm and how focused he is: “But I was fully devoted to the work, I did not think about that.”
Ganga works with many different Local NGOs (LNGOs) at the field level, helping us to deliver the project. His area of responsibility is wide-ranging, including several tasks for each project. As a first step, he must engage the community: explaining the project, the technology, the duties, as well as opportunities this project will bring about. For this to work, Ganga must get to know each community.
Solar Water Pumping
Our solar water pumping programme in Nepal follows an innovative financing approach, supporting communities to raise their own funds to contribute towards the technology and infrastructure costs of the project. Once the system is installed, each household pays a monthly fee for water based on their metered use. A Water User Committee is also established to own and manage the SolarMUS going forward, this is also key to ensuring the whole community is actively involved in the project. An essential part of Ganga’s job is the facilitation of the tariff setting in a community – a difficult process. “It takes time”, Ganga told us. It is important to educate the community on why a certain amount of money needs to be collected and what the benefits of solar energy are. Community members do not have any previous knowledge of solar technology, so it is crucial to explain how to use it properly. Ganga provides the community members with the necessary training, so that they feel adequately prepared. He also holds community meetings where members can talk openly about any concerns that they may have and the work that they’ve done. Ganga also keeps a record of how much money, labour, material and time members have invested in the project.
As Regional Officer Ganga monitors the whole project, he ensures everything works smoothly, and is always on hand if a problem occurs. He is the connection between our local partners and Renewable World Nepal’s head office in Kathmandu. Ganga regularly reports back to the head office and gathers relevant information to help inform the project team’s decision making, such as the use of the most appropriate and effective technology for each village.
Testing new technology
Ganga is incredibly passionate about new and eco-friendly technologies. He told us that he is always striving to improve his knowledge and get better at what he is doing. So unsurprisingly, he was especially excited when we tested the Papa Pump (another water pumping system) for the first time as a pilot project. The Papa Pump is based on a valve system and does not require any fuel; it is powered entirely by kinetic energy.
A life on the road
Working as Regional Officer in Nepal, one of the key features you have to bring with you is to be very flexible. Ganga travels a lot, he leads a life on the road. In a week, he will typically travel to at least two or three sites. Some of the villages are very inaccessible and cannot be reached by train or bus. In these cases, Ganga may have to walk up to 10 hours to reach the community. Whatever the journey entails, he always has his camera with him: “I always take pictures of everywhere I am”. Due to his projects being spread all over the Midwest of Nepal, Ganga cannot see his wife and two sons all too often. He tends to see them once a month, it has become a ritual, he told us. He talks about his work with his sons, and in fact speaks in English with them: “I want them to keep practising.” When asked what the most enjoyable part of his job is, his answer is rather simple:
“When the water is [finally] pumping, and people are happy.” Ganga loves seeing the difference and impact that the projects have on the communities. When talking with Ganga, it is striking how energetic and motivated he is: “I’m always thinking how to make a project efficient and sustainable in the long run.”