Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Sunday, November 16, 2003

Tibetans enjoy solar energy at roof of the world

Tibetans are using solar lights instead of burning cow dung and ghee at roof of the world.


Tibetans are using solar lights instead of burning cow dung and ghee at roof of the world.

"I never dreamed that sunshine could power lights. It's cleaner than burning cow dung and ghee and it's what you city people call "environmentally-friendly", said Tibetan herdsman Cewang Rinchen when cooking with his solar energy apparatus.

Born in Wujiang village in Rutog county in Tibetan's outlying western Ngari prefecture, Cewang Rinchen and most of his fellow nomadic Tibetans are now using lights powered by solar energy, which illuminate the grassland so that elderly people could do wool handiwork at night and children could study nearby.

Located high in Tibet, popularly known as the "roof of the world", Ngari Prefecture has an average altitude of 4,500 meters with very thin air and strong sunshine. It is one of the areas with the richest solar energy resources in the world, about 3,370 hours of sunshine every year.

Since 1990, China has been promoting the "Sunshine Program" and the "Light of Science Program" in disadvantageous Ngari Prefecture to build solar power stations there. By now, about 60 solar power stations have been built and 80 percent of nomadic Tibetans are using solar energy for light and warmth at night.

In a nomadic tent set up in Coqen county, 65-year-old Tibetan Dagyi said with feelings, "I've used ghee lights almost all my life and my nose became black and my eyes were almost smoked bad. We didn't accept the new stuff when the county government promoted solar energy lights to us the year before last, but now you can witness everyone is using it. My home can save approximately 100 ghee each year, which we can sell for about 1,200 yuan (about US$145)," said Dagyi.

Solar energy has not only helped change local people's lifestyles, but also improve local environment to some extent.

"Before using solar warming facilities, local Tibetans used branches and roots of rosewoods for heating, reducing the precious rare plants and degenerating the ecosystem. Promotion of solar energy helps improve the environment and even wildlife has been multiplying," said Lhaba Cering, an official native to Ngari Prefecture.

According to sources with the Solar Energy Promotion Center in Ngari Prefecture, solar energy development has been introduced not only for lighting but other areas like heating, agriculture, herding and use in water conservancy projects. By the end of the year, solar lights will be available for nearly 70,000 Tibetans in the prefecture.

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