Needs Assessment of the Nunneries of the Zanskar Valley October 6, 2008

By John Huizinga

On August 16th, 2008, Zazep Rimpoche, John Huizinga, and Celeste Kilmartin, acting as representatives of Gaden Relief, rented a jeep and driver, and drove the 2 days from Leh into the remote Zanskar valley to assess each of the 10 Buddhists nunneries. We brought with us various items of warm clothing, 40 reading glasses, 30 pairs of sunglasses, toothbrushes, band-aids, antibiotic cream, tums with calcium, acetomenophen, and, multivitamins with iron, to distribute amongst the various nunneries, all in one huge bulging green suitcase. These items were collected during the summer by Celeste from various donors in British Columbia and Idaho

Armed with survey questions and a respectful tour of the nunneries, we have evaluated each and compiled a list of needs and priorities for the individual nunneries. We, for the most part, are looking at infrastructure needs. These can include water and sanitation issues, lighting, heating, restoration and repair of existing buildings, and adding new buildings if needed, such as a greenhouse, toilets etc.

This project to bring assistance to the nuns in the Zanskar Valley will primarily consist of hands- on work to improve their daily existence.

When we returned to Leh from our time in Zanskar the people I had spoken to earlier at the Ecology Institute were out in the field so the costing out of the projects was done with the assistance of Dorje, a staff member at Health Inc. At this time the Indian rupee was at 42 to the US dollar.

I added 20% to these costs, a Zanskar levy if you will.

I have sent my cost estimates to Dorje to be verified and expect to hear back from him within a month.

Lauren Gavin from Sani nunnery went with us on our assessments as a translator. During the discussions at the various nunneries she was a huge help in keeping everything clear and present. Her thorough knowledge of the nuns and the nunneries meant that she was much more to us then just a translator. We thank Lauren for her generosity and unstinting willingness to help.


Skyagam is a relatively new nunnery. The 17 nuns living here range in age from 17 to 44 years old. The nunnery is located on a gently sloping hill just above the village of Skygam. The nunnery is less than 1 km. from the main road to Padam. The nunnery consists of a small temple (prayer hall) and 4 other out-buildings, all quite close to each other. The interior of the temple is a fairly typical with a shrine consisting Tankhas, butter lamps, and statues, against the end wall. There are 3 rows of cushions covered with Tibetan carpets running the length of the temple, with a corresponding row of low tables. These little tables are used by the nuns for tea, books, etc. In the very center of the room, there is a decorated tin “stove” with glass sides. Inside there are lit butter lamps. This is where the nuns do their daily Pujas.

One enters the temple grounds through an arched gateway with a hand-lettered sign that says ——————–. The nuns have recently planted a small grove of willow trees here so that one walks into a shaded grove in front of the temple.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Skyagam nunnery:

1) The nuns all appear to be relatively healthy; however there are several diagnosed cases of iron deficiency. A greenhouse would be a valuable addition to the nunnery. This would supplement their diet, and with the right crops, address the iron deficiency.

2) It would be useful to upgrade the existing water system. This can be done by adding more pipe and tapping into the creek further up the hill. Thus minimalizing the possibility of water contamination.
Because of the severe temps in the winter, this water pipe also needs to be buried 3 feet into the ground.

3) The nuns expressed desire to have a guest house. Rimpoche Zasep considered a guest house to be of low priority and something he does not support.

4) Skyagam nunnery does not receive any electricity from the local grid. Individual nuns do have small solar lights given to them by their families for their own personal spaces. Since the nunnery is so close to the power line, it may be feasible in the future to connect the nunnery up to the grid. However, we were unable to assess the costs and practicality of the connection at this time.

These are the things we were able to accomplish on this trip:

* Four stand-alone, LED solar-powered lamps from health Inc. These lamps will be used in their kitchen and communal spaces.
(Health Inc. is a small N.G.O. based in Leh. H.I. works in the outlying villages to promote health and hygiene.)

* We distributed , from the big green suitcase, neomycin (antibiotic) cream, acetomenophen, band-aids, toothbrushes, tums, and multivitamins with iron.

Costs (estimates) of future projects:

1 – Greenhouse —- 10 by 20 foot green house: 24,800 rupees (For materials only). The government of India provides money toward a rural green house But one needs to apply for the grant in advance.

2 – Extended water line ——- 600 meters inch a half plastic pipe a collector box, 4 bags cement, lumber, hardware — 14,000 rupees

We could ask that the labour for these two projects be donated by local villagers and family members or the nuns themselves I have asked the staff at Health Inc. to provide me with these labour costs and hope to have these in a month or so. In the case of the water line most of the work is to dig a trench and bury the line.

MANDA NUNNERY (Parma Choling)

Manda Nunnery is also a relatively new nunnery that was started ten years ago. There are eight nuns at Manda, the oldest is 33, the youngest is 13 years old. Originally these nuns separated from Skyagam nunnery to be closer to their families.
The Manda nunnery Is located on rise just above the small village of Manda and very close to the road.

The nunnery consists of a temple (prayer hall) and 2 two storey buildings for housing the nuns. The temple is fronted by a glassed in sun porch. There are cushions and low tables the length of the room with a small tidy kitchen at one end. This porch serves as a pleasant, warm communal space for the nuns.

The nunnery does not have electricity but individual nuns have solar lights for their residences.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Manda Nunnery:

1- The first request of the nuns was for a “toilet”. (A toilet consists of a mud/brick building with 2 small rooms and 2 doors. One side is a “pit” toilet with a rectangular hole in the floor. The other side is a room with a drain in the floor for sponge bathing.)

2 – The nuns of Manda would like a kitchen separate from their communal space and temple. This would consist of a one story mud/brick building, approx. 12 ft. by 8 ft, adjoining the existing building by a common wall.

1) The nuns individual rooms have small solar lights, however, they need more to illuminate communal spaces and kitchen.

2) The nuns are mostly young and healthy. Although two nuns have painful dental problems.

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip:

1) We donated 4 LED solar powered lights.

2) We distributed from the big green suitcase———

Costs (estimates) of future projects:

1 – washroom/toilet 6 by 12 foot building with a dividing wall separating the toilet and the washing room. 21,400 R/

2 – kitchen: A 10 by 12 foot building that would serve as a kitchen and as a library/ communal prayer room in the winter. The plan is to make this a solar building for two reasons. This building will be warm place during the winter months and it will also serve as a demonstration solar building for the villagers in the area. 34,500 R/

As in the case at Skygam we could ask that the labour for these projects be donated locally by villagers, families or the nuns themselves.

TUNGRI NUNNERY (Phuntsog Ling)

Tungri nunnery sits high up on a rocky cliff overlooking the sizeable village of Tungri and it’s extensive irrigated fields of barley. Tungri was built over 500 years ago at a time when no effort was spared to build spectacular monasteries and nunneries often perched on inaccessible peaks or built into niches hallowed out from solid rock. The nunnery consists of many old Tibetan style flat roofed buildings and rows of chortens placed in conspicuous view from the valley below. One walks up a steep trail winding its way up the mountainside to get to Tungri. Like the place itself, most of the residents of Tungri are older nuns. The oldest nun is 78, the youngest is 22. The interior walls of the Tungri temple are covered with ancient, but fairly well preserved paintings. The temple is richly adorned with very old tankhas, strange wooden masks, dozens of Buddhist statues, and many other ceremonial items. This small dark temple feels like an ancient, sacred sanctuary.

The buildings at Tungri for the most part are in good condition. The kitchen is the most spacious we’ve seen. Other communal rooms that share the temple complex are large, with lots of glass and light. The older nuns experience the kind of health problems that are typical with age. However, these nuns accept their condition with great equanimity.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Tungri Nunnery:

1) The pressing need at Tungri is water. The spring behind the monastery, their traditional source of water, dried up a few years ago. The nuns now carry water from the river running through the village, up the steep path to the nunnery. Tungri had a well used and flourishing green-house, which is now shut down due to lack of water. Both of these problems can be addressed by installing a suitable water pump by the creek to pump the water up the estimated 600 feet elevation to the nunnery .

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip:

1 — In the past someone ran a wire up the hill from the village to the nunnery. Consequently the nunnery has electricity. However the power is unsure and intermittent
We have donated 3 solar-powered LED lights to be used by the older nuns.

2 — the stoves at Tungri are old and inefficient. We —–donate an efficient smokeless stove for heating and a new iron cook stove for the kitchen.

3– From the big green suitcase we distributed ————

Costs (estimates) of future projects

1 –Water delivery from the river to the nunnery

Water pump,
Pump house. 3 foot by 3 foot 4,000 R/
Inch half plastic pipe 700 meters1-1/2plasic pipe 11,750 R/
500 liter water tank 2,600 R/
Fittings, valves etc. 1,000 R/
Labour 2,000 R/

2 – 1 smokeless stove 600 rupees

3 – 1 iron cook stove 4,000 rupees

PS We later learned that Tungri nunnery successfully applied to have a gravity feed water system and pipe line put in to a spring 4 kilometers away. This is of course a better solution but far more costly. Given this news there is no point in costing out our project.

SANI NUNNERY (Kachog Ling)

Sani nunnery began ten years ago with two nuns doing a (how long)???retreat. The original two nuns are still there but fifteen more nuns have joined them.

They range in ages from eight to fifty three years old. As a group they have done communal pujas for five years now which established Kachog Ling as a nunnery.

The nunnery is build high on a rocky hill with a tremendous view of the village of Sani, the valley and the great bend of the Zanskar river. A number of small water diversions taken higher up from a fast flowing glacial stream meander through the grounds of the nunnery. These rivulets water flower beds, small gardens, a small field of planted willow trees and a forest of trees just below the nunnery grounds. In this extremely dry desiccated mountainside this abundance of fresh running water gives the entire place a sense of perpetual renewal.

Sani has a newly build traditional flat roofed Tibetan temple (prayer hall). Not quite finished.

Two very neat low one storey row houses that serve as individual residences. There is a flourishing green house with 3 foot long zucchinis.

The nunnery gets intermittent electricity from a diesel generator in the village. Some nuns have individual solar panels and lights.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Sani Nunnery:

1 – A building, the size of a kitchen (10ft by 12ft) to house a dispensary (Mentzi Khan) and a library. This could be build as a solar heated building. As well as having a heated library/dispensary this could also serve as a demonstration solar building for the people of the village and beyond.

The nuns have also requested books for library. Eg. books on health – dharma – geography, etc.

2 – A stone fence along the uphill boundary of the grounds to keep sheep, goats and cattle out.

3 – A smokeless stove for the prayer hall and a new efficient cook stove for the kitchen

4 – Sani is ideally situated for a micro hydro installation. The fast moving mountain creek has more then enough flow to power a turbine generator adequate for all their current or future needs. A micro hydro installation may be beyond our (Gaden Relief) current capacity. However I can suggest this as a possible project to the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDG) when I see them in Leh. LEGD has completed three micro hydro projects in the Zanskar valley.

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip

1 – We left four solar powered LED lamps at Sani for their communal spaces

2 – We provided one smokeless stove and one iron cook stove

3 – From the big green suit case we distributed

4- We took Lobzang Putick, a young nun, with us to Leh. Lobzang is losing her hearing. She is already deaf in her right ear and now losing hearing in her left. Once in Leh Celeste took her to the hospital to have her ears checked out.

Costs (estimates) of future projects

Dispensary/library 10×12 Solar building 34,500R/

Stone boundary wall 200,000 R/

1 smokeless stove 600 Rupees

1 iron kitchen cook stove 4,000 Rupees

KARSHA NUNNERY (Chuchikjail Kachod Grubling)

Karsha nunnery sits high up on a mountainside on the edge of a deep gulley with a truly spectacular view of the Zanskar valley below. At the same level across the gully is the much bigger Karsha monastery with its many buildings build into the rocky cliff. These two institutions have been a Zanskari landmark for almost a thousand years. The nunnery with its maze of flat roofed buildings connected by stone footpaths, its many chortens, and the ruins of an ancient palace and more crumbling chortens directly above the nunnery give this place a feeling of great age.

There are twenty nuns at Karsha. Some of the nuns at Karsha are very old, one is blind and one nun is senile. Overall Their ages range from 78 to 12 years old. They do their daily pujas in a quite small temple with a wood floor and very old ornate tankhas and statues. This temple has a very intimate feel. During winter it is to cold to use the temple so the nuns do their pujas in a kind of bleak “puja room” with cement floor and walls.

Karsha has electricity for three hours every evening from the village of Karsha below. They have three solar panels but as in most nunneries they do not have sufficient light especially during the longer winter nights.

They have a good source of clean spring water but during the winter the source freezes up and they carry their water up the hill from the village, a hard half hour climb up a steep footpath.

We stayed at Karsha nunnery in their two newly build guest rooms and used this as our base from which to travel back and forth to the other nunneries. We were very well taken care of and wish to express our gratitude for the exceptionally warm and welcoming hospitality of the nuns at Karsha.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Karsha Nunnery

1 – To retro-fit a passive solar heating wall onto the temple. This is feasible as the front wall faces south. (of by 16 degrees) A collector wall would change the appearance from outside in that the front wall would be painted black and a wood structure holding glass panes would be placed directly in front of the wall with a one inch space between it and the temple wall. Nothing would change in the interior. Fitted foam blocks will be placed into the two inside window sills for insulation. These foam blocks can be removed and replaced at will so that light can enter when the temple is in use. We would put 3 feet of insulation ( hay or straw) on the flat roof.
With this retro-fit the temple could be used during the winter months.

2 – To connect the three existing solar panels and create a single system with a proper charge controller. This more efficient solar system would generate up to three times the usable power.

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip

1 – We left four solar powered LED lamps at Karsha for then to use as they see fit.

2 – We are provided one iron four burner cook stove. In the kitchen at Karsha the nuns cooked over an open fire contained by a clay floor and walls.

3 – The water line from two springs is carried by a three kilometer, one and half inch, plastic pipe. Two years ago with grant from the Indian government this entire pipeline was buried two feet and a large cement collector box build right by the spring. (six feet) However the system still freezes up in winter. We concluded that the build up of ice either right at the spring or at the opening of the buried six foot pipe to the collector box would block the water flow.

To remedy this we excavated a three foot deep, five foot wide, “trench”, to take in the two springs, all the to the collector box and build a cement wall along one side to contain the water. We then blocked a cement spillway where the overflow from the spring poured into the collector box. The result: the “trench” filled with water and the pipe at the spring was now under water. We now covered the “pond” with wooden boards, plywood and a sheet of old metal roofing. This was covered with a tarpaulin and a layer of dirt.

All this was accomplished with the help of an “army” of nuns carrying cement, gravel and sand, wooden boards, sheets of plywood on their backs. The nuns mixed cement, moved rocks, dug dirt, sawed and cut boards to length and made a fabulous hot lunch over a dung fire.
We finished just in time to walk back to the nunneries before dark. The nuns will return to the spring with enough hay to make a three foot mound of insulation over the dirt and then securely tarp the mound against winters icy winds.

4 – We brought Kalzang, the Karsha nun who heads the Zanskar Nuns Association with us to Leh. Kalzang is very thin and has had no appetite for the last six months. Once in Leh Celeste took her to the hospital have her

Costs (estimates) of future projects

1 — Retro-fit a solar collector wall to the temple — 23,000 R/
Includes 4,000 R/ for labour

2 – upgrading three separate solar panels into a single system
Charge controller —————— 3,000 R/
200AH battery —————– 4,000 R/
Wiring, switches, light fixtures — 2,000R/
— 9,000 R/

ZANGLA NUNNERY (Byangchub Choling)

Zangla nunnery is located on a rocky outcrop just above the village of Zangla. It is a very pretty nunnery with small low buildings at different levels connected by narrow walkways flanked by numerous flower beds.

There is a small walled courtyard in front of a 500 year old temple with flowers and banners. There are twenty one nuns at Zangla ranging from 15 to a spry 85 year old.

Zangla nunnery appeared orderly, clean and more prosperous then many nunneries we have seen. They are on a grid but it works for only 4 months out of 12. They have three communal solar panels, one for the Kitchen, the gompa and one which is mobile. They have four solar stoves. Their water comes from an irrigation diversion above the nunnery. The water is clean but during winter it stops. We agreed that we would look at their water system next year and see if something can be done to make it work year around. There did not appear to be any other pressing or urgent need at Zangla.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Zangla nunnery

It would be good to do something to improve their light situation. The nunnery has no electricity from the grid for 8 months of the year.

1 – To add 2 solar panels to their existing three solar panels and make an integrated system with a charge controller and two 200 AH batteries.

2 – Have a good look at their water delivery system. There appears to be plenty of water in the creek coming of the mountain so the problem of no water during winter is likely with the intake. It was late in the day when we arrived at Zangla so we did not have time to inspect the entire water delivery system.

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip

1 – We left four solar powered LED lamps for their communal use

2 – We distributed from the big green suitcase

Costs (estimates) of future projects

2 — 80 watt solar panels —- 16,000 R/
1 –charge controller— 3,000 R/
2 – 200 AH batteries— 8,000 R/
3 wiring, switches, connectors, light fixtures-2,000 R/
29,000 R/

Assess the water delivery system and modify the intake. All the pipe to deliver the water already exists. To modify the intakes would take mostly some building materials, insulation and a small quantity of additional pipe The cost is uncertain but would probably not exceed —-4,000 rupees


Pishu Nunnery is located on a long dry hillside, on the other side of the Zanskar river above the very small and impoverished village of Pishu. To reach Pishu we crossed a suspension bridge across the river where two nuns were waiting for us with horses. We rode and walked about two kilometers up a long gravely slope. The nunnery is in a walled compound that contains a few poplar trees. There is a very old temple, that was used by the villagers of Pishu before the nunnery was here, and number of other older, kind of shabby but serviceable buildings in the compound.
There are ten nuns at Pishu. Five of the nuns are well on in age with three in their eighties and two in their seventies. The other five nuns range in age from 44 to 18.
Pishu nunnery has no electricity but they have four solar panels that run eight lights. This seems more or les adequate. The pressing problem for this nunnery is water. The water comes from one small stream above the nunnery. The stream runs dry in early September leaving them without water until next spring. They then carry water over two kilometers from the Zanskar river to the nunnery.
Pishu nunnery appears to be one of the poorest nunneries we have visited with half the nuns being quite old. The area around the nunnery is quite bleak with no fields of barley within sight. It seems that the local village of Pishu is also quite impoverished. The availability and amount of water really determines the level of prosperity for a locality.

We have identified the following possible future projects for Pishu Nunnery

1 – Upgrade the solar system by adding one solar panel and making one integrated system.

2 – To remedy the water situation : Supply the nunnery with a horse drawn cart with a water barrel and a horse or donkey to transport water from the Zanskar river to the nunnery. We could also consider setting up one of the villagers with the water cart to transport water to the nunnery, and to the villagers who need water, and then pay a fee for the water delivery to the nunnery. In this case the villager would be required to pay back the cost of the cart within a specified period of time. There are lots of horses and donkeys in the village as the villagers are involved with trekking

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip

1 – We left three solar powered LED lamps

2 – Distributions from the big green suitcase.

Costs (estimates) of future projects

Lights — 1 — 80 watt solar panel —- 8,000 R/
1 — 200 AH battery — 4,000 R/
1 – charge controller — 3,000 R/
Wiring, switches and light fixtures, connectors — 1,000 R/
16,000 R/
Water I — horse drawn cart
1 horse — or — donkey
1 – 250 liter water tank for cart — 1,700 R/
1 – 500 liter water tank for nunnery with outlet pipe and shut of valve — 3,000 R/
1 – hand pump and hose for cart — 2,500 R/

The cart designed to carry a water tank, would have to be made in Padum
The cost is uncertain but would probably not exceed 6,000 R/
However we should consider having one of the villagers from Pishu own the cart and horse as a business to deliver water to the people in the village as well as to the nunnery. There are horses and donkeys already in the village that are used for the trekking industry,
We could assist a villager with a loan which would be paid back over time, to help get him started.


Dorje Dzong is the oldest nunnery in Zanskar. The nunnery sits high up on the mountainside with a sweeping view of the wide valley where the Zanskar and the Rivers meet and the towering snow mountains of the Zanskar range. There are several huge chortens crowding a few buildings and two temples hundreds of years old. The number of nuns at Dorje Dzong has fallen to a mere eight nuns. Their ages range from 86 to 20 years old.
A number of nuns recently left Dorje Dzong and moved to nunneries in Dharmsala. The nunnery has year around water from a spring in the compound. A road was recently completed to the nunnery and they are now also on the grid. The power as expected, is intermittent. They have two solar panels for communal use.
In the past this nunnery received a land grant on which they grew peas and barley but now the lease this land to a local farmer.
In the end we did not identify any projects here for the future but left them three solar powered LED lamps and agree to send them a four burner cook stove for their kitchen

Things we were able to accomplish on this trip

1 – Three solar powered LED lamps –4,500 rupees

2 – one 4 burner cook stove — 4,000 rupees


Zasep Rimpoche visited Dolma Ling nunnery on his own. This is the most isolated nunnery in Zanskar. To reach Dolma Ling is a 30 Kilometer walk from the road at Rahru. Dolma ling is on the other side of a river from the trail and requires crossing the canyon by a suspension bridge. The nunnery consists of a tiny temple and three other small buildings. The six nuns at Dolma ling are very poor and are often forced to leave the nunnery to do farm work in order to survive. All six nuns came to Karsha nunnery for the Zanskar Nuns Association meeting held at Karsha Nunnery. At this time we gave them six solar powered lamps and each nun received gloves, thick winter fleecies and multi vitamins from the big green suit case


The Survey Questions

1… How old is this nunnery?

2… How many nuns live here?

3… What are their ages?

4… What kinds of health problems do you have?

5… How is this nunnery supported?

a)…how much support from the village?

b)…how much support from families and relatives?

c)…how much support from outside sources? eg; NGO’s?

6… Where does your water come from?

a)…is it adequate?

b)…is it clean?

c)…is it year-round?

7… What are the most important needs for this nunnery that you would like help with?

Health Inc.

Health Inc. is an N.G.O. based in Leh; started and run by Cynthia Hunt. H.I. works mostly in the outlying villages to introduce appropriate technologies and promote health and hygiene.

We were able to purchase 40 small, stand alone, LED solar powered lamps from health Inc. These lamps were designed by a health Inc. supporter, Anthony Harkem from Canmore, Alberta and are now being assembled in Leh. These lamps are a completely self-contained unit that when placed outside, recharge, and are then ready for another 4 to 6 hours of use.

Cynthia has written several excellent illustrated books in the Ladahki language on Health and Hygiene. She has generously offered us copies of these books to distribute to the nunneries to assist us in our efforts to promote awareness of health and hygiene . We plan distribute these materials we return next year to complete the projects we have decided to take on.

Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDG)

Ladakh Ecological Development Group is an NGO started by Helene Nordberg (Ancient Futures) in 1983 to help the people of Ladahk meet the challenges of globalization to a traditional society.

LEDG is now its own independent organization based in Leh. (LEH 194101 India – Tell. 01982-253221 – fax 01982-252284

LEDG works mostly in the villages to: 1) Design and distribute appropriate technologies: especially solar; 2) Promote income generating projects in the villages; 3) Promote the traditional Ladhaki culture and way of life.

We met with Sonam Jorgyes, the director of LEDG when we were in Leh. Mr. Jorgyes was most helpful in answering our many questions and generous with his information and advice. He explained what LEDG does, where they work, some of their failures and successes over 25 years and some of the ins and out of working in Ladakh, and in India.

Mr. Jorgyes then gave us a tour of the LEDG compound. We were shown a model green house, a solar house, a parabolic solar cooker, their store where village handi-crafts are sold.

One thing of interest! As a matter of policy LEDG expects the recipient of an aid project, be it community or an individual family, to contribute half of the cost either in labour or in cash.

John returned to LEDG the following day to meet with members of the staff. There was tea and a long talk about Ladahk, what kinds of things they do, and discussion of more technical details of their research and development and their hands on experiences working in the field. The information received from the people at LEDG will be most helpful to us for the planning and execution of the work we plan to do for the nunneries in the Zanskar. I recorded some of this information.

Solar House

A solar house is constructed of mud bricks. Mud bricks are a far superior insulator then cement as well as a superior thermal mass.

The south side of the building consists of glass panels, one inch of air space and a then wall 6 inches thick. The wall is finished in a polished black to absorb the maximum amount of heat. The maximum thickness of the south wall is 6 inches to allow for the transfer of heat into the building. Vents at the floor and ceiling level can be installed in the wall. This allows for a convection current of hot air into the building. The draw-back to vents is that if they are not securely closed after sunset then the inside of the room will quickly lose heat to the outside.

The remaining three walls are constructed as double walls with a 4 inch air space between. The outside wall is 6 to 8 inches and the inside wall 6 inches. The 4 inch air space is filled with insulation. Local insulation materials include: dry powdered sheep shit, straw, hay, woodchips
The ceiling is topped with 4 inches of insulation with 4 to 6 inches mud placed over top of the insulation. For the floor four to 6 inches of soil is removed to make a shallow pit. This pit is then filled with insulation before the floor boards go down. The walls are set 3 feet into the ground. Stones are commonly use for the foundation (the portion of the wall that is underground) Because the region is so dry (ground water is at 80 meters) there has been no problem with moisture from the earth wicking up into the walls or into the insulation. However they now first place a plastic liner in the foundation trench and also in the shallow pit below the floor before putting the insulation down.

Solar buildings of this design have been used in Ladakh for twenty five years. These passive solar heated buildings have proved to work well in this extreme climate. A solar building captures and retains enough heat to stay warm during the very cold winter nights when temperatures can go as low as 40% below zero. It never freezes inside a passive solar heated rooms.

A solar heating wall can be up to 19 degrees east for a day time room.
A solar heating wall can be up to 19 degrees west for a night time room.
A solar heating wall should not be over 19 off degrees of south

The average cost of a one room 12×14 foot solar house: ——————-
The cost to retrofit an existing small house (12×14) with a solar wall: 20,000 to 20,000 rupees

Green House

Year around solar heated green houses were first introduced to Ladakh about twenty years ago. Local villagers were initially slow to accept the “new” green houses but that is changing now that the green houses have been widely demonstrated to work well in this climate and to be of substantial benefit to a village.

Like a solar house the back and side walls of a year around green house are double walls of mud bricks with a 4 inch layer of insulation between the walls. The south facing front of the green house is a sloped surface of frames that support panes of glass. The slope or angle of the glass front is at 90 degrees to the sun at the winter solstice.( Dec.21)

In the last three years a plastic cover for greenhouses is being used instead of glass panes. This reduces the cost of a greenhouse considerably. The framework to hold the glass panes can now be a simpler configuration of poles. The plastic cover is good for three years.
The greenhouses are relatively cheap to build and have proven to be very effective. A green house not only supplements but also enhances the traditional diet. A villager, if they choose to sell their produce, can earn 6,000 rupees a year from a green house.

The government of India provides money towards the cost of building a green house but only if one fills out and submits a lengthy grant application.

Costs for a 10×20 foot green house using a plastic cover:13,000 rupees (does this include the cost of the walls?)

Solar Cooker

With direct sunlight, a parabolic solar cooker, about 4 feet in Diameter can boil a liter of water in 5 minutes. The frames for these parabolic cookers can be assembled and disassembled quite easily for ease of transportation. The frames are made in India but LEDG imports the reflector material from Germany.

Cost 7,000 rupees

Micro Hydro

LEDG also is involved with Micro Hydro projects. Currently they have three micro hydro installations in the Zanskar Valley, the largest of which is a 10 KW plant.

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