Chitwan National Park, located in the south-central part of Nepal, protects one of the few remaining undisturbed parts of the subtropical lowland or Terai ecosystem. Chitwan National Park was the first National Park to be established in Nepal, and serves as an important refuge to the Bengal Tiger and is also home to one of the last populations of greater one-horned rhinoceros, among countless other species.
A mile-wide stretch that borders much of the circumference of Chitwan National Park is designated as a Buffer Zone, a IUCN Category VI Protected Area that aims to conserve ecosystems and habitats, together with the cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems of the local people that have lived there since before Chitwan National Park was established. The communities that live in the Buffer Zone balance normal human needs for jobs, food, and shelter with conserving the wilderness and wildlife that surrounds them.
The Chitrasen Tower is an off-grid wildlife observation tower and ecotourism stay recently constructed within the Chitrasen Community Forest Buffer Zone (CCFBZ), and managed by the local CCFBZ User Group Committee. The User Group Committee leads resource management, wildlife conservation efforts, and livelihood initiatives in the CCFBZ, and relies largely on tourism to generate funding for these activities. This November, GRID participants will work alongside GRID to install a 2-3kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the Chitrasen Tower from start-to-finish. With access to clean, reliable electricity, the Chitrasen Tower will be able to power lighting, a water pump that can provide running water around the clock, a facility to charge cell-phones and camera batteries, electric fans, and external flood lights for security. This creates a safe place for tourists to observe the wildlife that the park protects and stay overnight for a fee. The income generated from the Tower will be used by the CCFBZ User Group Committee to improve the local schools in their community, and support resource management and anti-poaching initiatives in the CCFBZ.
This is GRID's fifth solar installation on an off-grid wildlife observation tower in Chitwan National Park, following the Dulekhola Tower in 2017, the Open Tower and Kaathe Tower in 2018, and the Kumal Tower in March 2019.
During their 8-day journey to Nepal, participants had the chance to experience Nepali culture, learn about community-centered sustainable development, and get hands-on with solar, installing the off-grid PV system on the Chitrasen Tower from start-to-finish. They had the opportunity to be immersed in the local community, met and learned from the CCFBZ User Committee and their initiatives in the area, and saw wildlife while staying overnight in the Tower during the installation. Before and after the project, our GRID Nepal staff lead the group through unique cultural activities and organized sightseeing in Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park. If you're interested in traveling with GRID to Nepal, Nicaragua or Mexico as well, check out our upcoming projects to see if there are any spots still available on our trips!
Check out the photos from the install and thanks to Empowered by Light for sponsoring this project!