The Success Of "Small is Beautiful" In Nepal

One wouldn't necessarily associate successful, small-scale sustainability projects with the small country of Nepal, but a quiet revolution to improve the lives of Nepalis is now underway in the Himalayan nation, from forestry and to power generation.

"Small is beautiful" not a new idea, but in combining traditional skills and knowledge with new technologies in localized and smaller-scaled initiatives supported by the government, Nepalis have been able to demonstrate that anticipating the future does not require constructing massive and environmentally-impactful infrastructure — a lesson that could be applied to other larger, neighbouring nations such as India and China.

People like Akal Man Nakarmi are a prime example of this new partnership between old and new: as traditionally-trained metal-smiths, Akal's predecessors were once restricted to crafting conventional statues and copperware. However, Akal now finds a new purpose in making small turbines called Peltric Sets for micro-hydro electric generation plants which are now in high demand across the Himalayas.

Developed from traditional water mill technology, the micro-hydro plants are taking advantage of the fact that Nepal has one of the highest per capita hydropower generation potentials in the world, but made more efficient under local management and integration with existing technology.

A similar scenario exists with the relatively quick rise of the number of village biogas plants in Nepal, which now numbers 180,000. It was with the help of government subsidies, rural extension and training that allowed both micro-hydro and biogas to proliferate so rapidly, allowing them to be much more economically and collectively viable.

Of course, small-scale sustainability in Nepal, as with other developing nations, still flourishes under the uneasy shadow of big mega-development projects. Bigger projects often mean bigger kickbacks for politicians, while high dams on the Kosi and Karnali rivers - in addition to a number of mid-sized dams - are proposed to export water and energy to India within the next six years. But hopefully, with more local and national promotion and government support of smaller-scaled schemes, local solutions will continue playing a critical and effective role in Nepal.
See also ::Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher

Image from Renewable Energy Access