After an absolute no-travel year in 2020, Spiti saw some tourism inflow in the second half of 2021. With faith, we prepped for our summer programs this year and waited patiently through the uncertain roller coaster that it has been. But it all came to a sudden halt with the spike in cases in April and the strict lockdown that ensued.
Thankfully we could host travellers and volunteers June onwards, while getting our developmental projects up and running.
Here is a list of initiatives we've been able to work on this year to positively impact the local community :
- 1850+ dental treatments undertaken in Spiti
- 6 Greenhouses built
- 9 Solar Rooms built
- 2 Solar Water Pumps installed
- 22000+ cubic ft. trenches dug in the Demul highlands to recharge ground water
- 76 fuel efficient stoves installed
- 300+ stray dogs fed through the winter
- Dental Camp in Asoga Village, Chhattisgarh
Changing the Landscape of Oral Health in Spiti Valley
Of all the health problems in Spiti, the most ignored is Oral Health where people in their 40s end up losing most of their teeth to cavities. To address this concern we on-boarded 2 dentists onto our team with whom we conducted 4 dental camps in Spiti Valley this year. These dental camps were held in the villages of Kwang, Komic (the 1st ever camp of this nature in the highest village of the world), Pangmo and Rangrik.
The response to these camps has been overwhelming and within a span of 3 months over 1850 dental treatments were conducted.
After the success of our mobile dental camps, we decided to extend our dental interventions over the winter months to areas out of Spiti. This year we have taken our dental team and mobile clinic to the interiors of Chhattisgarh where we are holding camps through the winter
Creating Access to Water & Mitigating the Impacts of Climate Change
The only source of moisture in Spiti is from winter snow. With climate change, snowfall has drastically reduced over the years. In 2017-2018, we had almost no snowfall at all. Most villages in Spiti still don’t have access to drinking water, especially in the winters when temperatures dip to -30C and water sources freeze over. A simple task of getting water to drink entails an arduous trek over many kilometers to the river bed - just to carry back a 20 liter can for the entire family. More often than not, one has to resort to melting snow.
As most of you know, we've been working on bringing water closer to people's homes and mitigating the impacts of climate change in 2 ways.
Solar Water Pumps - So far, we've enabled year-round access to water in 4 villages. This year we set up solar water pumps in 2 more villages to address this problem. We set up one solar water pump in the village of Kwang and 2 pumps in the village of Lidang. As Lidang is a large village divided into 2 parts - Old Lidang and New Lidang - 2 separate solar pumps were set up along with 2 water storage facilities for the village.
Ground Water Recharge - This year, we adopted the village of Demul and holistically covered a large section of the village's spring shed. We dug over 22000+ cu. ft. trenches in the Demul highlands to help with recharge of groundwater in this belt.
Fresh Greens for 6 more families
The simplest of things is a luxury in Spiti. Access to fresh produce and green vegetables is hard-to-find. The extreme weather conditions make it unfavourable to growing greens. Restricted travel, especially during the winter months, cuts access to the otherwise regular supply of produce from Manali.
Add to that, the pandemic and its numerous variants have made good nutrition almost impossible for the locals. This year we built 6 greenhouses to ensure the community has access to fresh produce, which is otherwise barely accessible during the winters.
Solar Rooms for 9 families
Extreme winter months in Spiti sees families burning a lot of firewood to keep themselves warm. With simple architectural enhancements and better insulation we have created sustainable ways of heating up rooms using the sun's rays - drastically reducing fuel consumption in the process. These enhancements absorb and retain solar heat longer using technologies that are based on local materials (dung, straw, mud brick), reducing fuel consumption by 60%.
Wood stoves and LPG gas cylinders are the cooking mediums in Spiti. Rising LPG costs are heavy on the pocket, so people turn to wood stoves. However, local wood stoves are not fuel efficient, consuming a lot of firewood and emitting a ton of carbon.
To address this, we introduced the Himalayan Rocket Stove, a fuel-efficient stove that cuts down 50% of wood consumption and reduces carbon emissions by over 90%. This ensures that the indoor air is smoke-free. The stoves also help reduce expenditure and time spent on collecting wood and dung. This year we provided 76 such fuel efficient stoves to the local community.
Winters have always been extremely hard here. But it is even worse for our furry friends. People are barely around, fewer tourists, the locals step out less - all of these culminating to minimal or almost no food for the dogs to get through the winter months. They either starve or even worse end up eating the little pups. Along with the fabulous women of the Menthok Self-Help Group, we organise feeding programs to ensure the dogs don't go hungry during the extreme winters. This year, too, we continued feeding over 300 strays in and around Kaza through the winter.
Volunteers make our world go round!
In June 2021, Ecosphere resumed operations and took in travelers for the fixed departure programs and the volunteer programs planned for the summer. Our volunteers have helped us:
Collect Trash as part of the I Love Spiti Initiative:
Watch the film now:
Sol Café - our Café with a Cause:
July onwards, Spiti saw an inflow of tourists after more than a year of no travel. It was buzzing with travellers, volunteers and locals. Our Sol Café was equally bustling with sizzling delicacies, warm mugs of coffee, Cook like a Local lessons, meetings, movie nights and volunteer catch-ups. Thank you to each of our Sol Volunteers who made this possible: Nitin, Nalin, Rashmi, Pooja, Shibani, Rushitha and Manju.
Taste of Spiti - our fusion Restaurant:
Watch what Nitin has to say:
- TOTs Magazine August 2021 - Ecosphere along with it’s NGO wing MUSE was featured for the many initiatives and the volunteer run-programs we host in Spiti.
- Travel and Leisure October 2021 - Our Founder, Ishita Khanna, was featured as the 15 Trailblazers of 2021 for Ecosphere's volunteering-based tourism that enables the upliftment of local communities.
- Travel and Leisure October 2021 - Based on first-hand experience our volunteer, Rashima Nagpal, dedicated a write-up on how the volunteer programs in Ecosphere function and the many experiences that come with it.
- Visa2Explore October 2021 - Ecosphere-run Taste of Spiti had the pleasure of hosting and serving Harish Bali from Visa2Explore who enjoyed delicacies with a local twist in Spitian flavours.The year was uncertain, challenging and nothing short of a roller coaster ride. But with the continuous support of our team, we were able to sail through the year. Now, with renewed hope and energy, here we are looking forward to a positive 2022!
- Dharampal Satyapal Foods Limited (DS Group)
- Sunlit Futures
- Grundfos Foundation
- Adna Global