Gaden Relief Projects
Helping to preserve Tibetan culture in India, Mongolia and Tibet

Interim Zangskar Project Report, September 2009

By Kim Gutschow, Zangskar Project Coordinator

Summary of Funds Received and Disbursed in 2009

Old Funds (Rs)New Funds (Rs)Funds Received In Indian Rupees (and US Dollars)
 Rs. 48,000 from Bodhi ($900) and Rinpoche ($100) to purchase medicines for the Karsha Amchi Clinic
 Rs. 90,000 from Mari Hill Harpur to fund plantation projects
Rs. 233,000  from Gaden Relief Zangskar Project
Rs. 233,000Rs. 138,000Total Received
Old Funds (Rs)New Funds (Rs)Disbursements in Indian Rupees by September 2009
 Rs. 48,000Karsha Lonpo: for the purchase of medicines for Amchi Clinic
 Rs. 30,000Sani: to repair/construct fences for plantation and replant deforested areas
 Rs. 25,000Dorje Dzong: to build fences for new plantation
 Rs. 20,000Skyagam: to complete greenhouse
 Rs. 15,000Tungri: to plant more trees and repairing/constructing fences
Rs. 70,000 Karsha, for passive solar house for water storage tank, surrounding spring
Rs. 36,000 Nine solar lanterns (each 4,000) for nine Gaden nunneries (Chumig Gyartse excepted)
Rs. 30,000 Zangla: to begin construction of passive solar classroom
Rs. 15,000 Tungri for construction of passive solar washroom
Rs. 24,500 Bya: to build passive solar room/kitchen next to assembly hall
Rs. 22,400 Pishu: to purchase of water storage tank and communal work projects to secure water, undertake repairs
Rs. 19,500 Manda: To build a compost toilet plus three extra solar lanterns from Sani (4,500)
Rs. 14,000 Taxi/Transport (13,000) plus Photostat charges (1000)
Rs. 231,400Rs. 138,000Total Disbursed

In the summer of 2009, Kim Gutschow, Project Coordinator, and Lauren Galvin, Field Officer, visited nine of Zangskar's ten nunneries to begin implementing projects that had been selected on the basis of two intensive surveys in 2007 and 2008. Previous surveys, in 2008 and 2007, had identified the most pressing needs as well as constraints at each of Zangskar's ten nunneries. This report identifies the projects that Gaden Relief is currently supporting each nunnery over the next years. One of the current goals for Gaden Relief is to increase effective communication between the new NGO, the Zangskar Nuns Association, and Gaden Relief Nuns Project. To that end in 2009, Kim Gutschow and Lauren Galvin, attended the annual meeting of the Zangskar Nuns' Association, where several nunneries introduced their new members who would serve on the working committee and held elections for several posts of the executive committee including the Secretary and Chief Advisor, both of whom are now nuns from Karsha and Zangla nunnery respectively. The posts of President, Skalzang Lhamo and Treasurer, Konchog Drolma, were uncontested.

Skalzang Lhamo, in association with Kim Gutschow and Lauren Galvin, met with one of the highest political officials in Zangskar, Phuntsog Tashi, who is an Executive Councillor in the LAHDC (Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council) of Kargil District. This council oversees the development of the region and funds education, social welfare, public works, health, and other infrastructure in the region. With the assistance of Phuntsog Tashi, ZNA has petitioned the Tehsildar's Office in Padum for a land grant of 50 kanals (2.5 hectares), which will be used as a site for a central office and school eventually, as well as plantation, garden, and greenhouses, water permitting. President Skalzang and Treasurer Konchog Drolma have agreed to visit and request EC Phuntsog Tashi and the Tehlsidar again this fall for land. They will have to be very persistent in their request for land, as the Padum Tehsildar has been unbearably reluctant to agree to the nuns' request.

Based on the demands for lighting expressed in previous surveys, nine of ten nunneries visited received a Bangalore made solar lantern, whose replacement parts are readily available in the Leh bazaar. The lantern resembles a camping lantern which houses a simple battery and is connected to a small, rigid (15 x 25 inch) PV array produced in Bangalore according to German specifications. Two of ten nunneries in Zangskar, Karsha and Pishu, received solar cookers in 2009, which save the nuns considerable cooking fuel costs. Gaden also plans to purchase solar cookers for the remaining 8 nunneries, which are available from Ledeg, a Ladakhi NGO based in Leh town and, much more cheaply, in Rajasthan. In addition, most of the nunneries hope to purchase a water storage unit to facilitate the storage of drinking water in summer and winter, as the supply of drinking water is often irregular and/or contaminated. Finally, Gaden Relief aims to conduct a brief ZNA meeting/training session for operating the solar cookers, the solar lanterns, and sharing logistics around the constructions of greenhouses, passive solar buildings, etc.

Sani nunnery, which is currently home to 17 nuns aged 13 to 45, plans to extend their existing plantation as well as repair and rebuild the walls surrounding the two plantations they have developed in the past year since Mari Hill Harpur made a generous grant to Gaden Relief for the purpose of developing plantations in Zangskar. A few years ago, the Sani nuns received government materials (barbed wire and posts) years ago to build a fence around a small section of land where they planted willow trees. However, due to shoddy construction, the fence is largely collapsed in sections and is mostly inadequate for keeping out the numerous cows and sheep that graze the hillsides around Sani. This year, the nuns will plant willow (and poplar?) cuttings across a much larger hillside and build the fencing for this larger plantation as well as their kitchen gardens and monastic grounds. The nuns began collecting rocks in the summer and fall of 2009 in preparation for building the walls, while they continue to explore the degree to which government support is available to repair or restore some of the fencing around existing plantations.

With some help from a Ladakhi NGO, LEHO (Ladakh Environmental Health Organization), the Sani nuns also hope to complete a passive solar greenhouse that will be warm enough to grow vegetables year round. This design has been developed by ICIMOD for the trans Himalayan region, using appropriate technologies that maximize local skills and local materials. LEHO donated 2 windows and a door for the greenhouse and has provided critical design assistance. The nuns dug out the required 16 x 50 foot foundation and will berm the structure into a hillside to improve thermal mass. The summer of 2010 will be devoted to completing a double walled greenhouse that utilizes an outer load-bearing wall of rock and mud mortar while the inner wall is made from mud brick. The cavity between the walls will be stuffed with insulating material such as straw or other non-decomposing organic matter. When completed, the greenhouse will be one of few that can support crops throughout the harshest winter months when nighttime temps drop to minus 40 degrees Centigrade.

The Sani nuns plan to grow seedlings during the summer that may be planted in the nearby abandoned fields owned by Bardan Monastery fields or plantation area, depending on whether they get permission from the monastic authorities. The aim would be to start seedlings early in the spring, transplant to fields during the summertime, and then continue on with hardy crops during the winter after the road to Leh or Kargil closes when vegetables are in scarce supply across Zangskar. Eventually, the plan is to grow enough vegetables and learn dehydration techniques so that the nuns could produce enough food to fulfill their communal summer and winter consumption. Moreover, if the dehydration and winter crops prove successful, this could be an income generating scheme as well for the nuns. Last but not least, the production of vegetables could be linked to broader public health awareness as studies have linked the extreme shortage of vegetables in the winter diet to the rise of infant, neonatal, and perinatal mortality in winter months.

The 17 nuns at Skyagam, aged 15 to 45, decided to build a greenhouse, built according to modified LEHO specifications. The greenhouse will be used for local consumption, as the nuns did not have the physical space nor water resources to build a larger greenhouse . The nuns completed the walls of the greenhouse using stone, and have made the mud bricks for the inner walls of the greenhouse. They have not yet purchased the duma (poplar beams) and dalu (small willow cross beams) for the roofing. They have, however, purchased and transported the door and two windows to the nunnery site. Future plans at Skyagam include a passive solar classroom and an extension of the drinking and irrigation water systems that could permit the development of a larger willow plantation and several kitchen gardens, as needed.

The 10 Tungri nuns, aged 20 to 75, decided to build a small collective bathroom, they live on an exposed hill in rather close proximity to the village and have no place to wash in private. The planned washroom was to be built out of local rock and mud mortar, with a thin cement stucco on the inside walls and floor. Nuns will bring buckets of water for washing as needed, but Gaden Relief hopes to bring solar showers here as well as to other nunneries that express an interest and already have a collective bathroom. The Tungri nuns also repaired three existing walls and constructed a fourth wall around a small willow plantation on one of their village fields.

At Manda, the 8 resident nuns, who are aged 15 to 30, elected to build a collective washroom and compost toilet using mostly local materials---rock and mud mortar----as well as a cement wash for the bathroom floor and walls. The nuns also elected to use their Gaden Relief funds to purchase additional solar lanterns from the Sani nuns, who have been trained to produce and market small, durable solar lanterns in Zangskar using Indian supplied materials. The Manda nuns have already dug out the foundation but the last time I visited the nunnery, they had not yet gathered and carried the rocks to the site as they were waiting for a hauling truck. They have purchased, however, the beams for the roofing. Future plans include a much-desired greenhouse which will require some additional negotiation with village leaders who may or may not agree to supply the nuns with an allotment of water from the village channels that provide increasingly limited amounts of water to the village fields.

The 19 nuns of Karsha, aged 10 to 78, expressed a clear and consistent preference for increasing the year-round reliability of their drinking and irrigation water. While the government has been working on providing this water for more than a decade, their efforts have been hampered by poor design, shoddy implementation, and frequent graft. In 2008, John Huizinga was able to assist and instruct the nuns in building an insulated roof for the water storage tank at the head of the village watershed, which feeds into a buried pipe that leads to the cliff on which the nunnery is housed. The nuns also helped repair the cracks in the government supplied water tank from which they and the village receive their drinking water. In the winter of 2008, the only way the nuns secured running water all winter was to light a small fire under the water pipe each night, which was tended by nuns, turn by turn, through the winter. The construction of a passive solar building in 2009 to house the pipe and a storage tank at the nunnery should obviate these hardships. The passive solar water house is modeled on the three similar houses that were built at the monastery and village of Karsha for similar purposes. In each case, the house is built with double walls, using insulation material between the walls, while the water tank is bermed into the hillside to preserve thermal mass as much as possible. The Karsha nuns would like to build a passive solar greenhouse modeled on the one at Sani in 2010 if funds permit.

The 16 nuns of Zangla, aged 12 to 74, started assembling materials for the construction of a passive solar classroom which will require considerable funds to ensure completion in the summer of 2010. They have selected an appropriate south facing site that would be attached to the rock wall and foundation of the old assembly hall/chapel. The classroom will have an angled glass panels to maximize the use of winter sunlight and warmth, when existing classrooms are simply to cold and inefficient for study. The classroom will be used by the 17 girls who attend the CIBS (Central Institute of Buddhist Studies) program in Zangla that teaches a mixed curriculum of Tibetan, Hindi, and English, with emphasis on traditional religious and modern secular subjects. Once the winter classroom is completed, the school will be well equipped to use the winter season when village children have more free time than in summer.

The 7 nuns of Dorje Dzong, aged 35 to 77, decided to develop a larger plantation that will include both willow saplings as well as a number of small fields currently planted with potatoes, turnips, and other hardy crops. The nuns purchased roughly 400 feet of fencing material (chicken wire) in Padum and transported the fencing to their village where it was installed around their fields. The plantation should provide the needed wooden beams and roofing materials in future for the nunnery as well as for donation or reduced sale to other nunneries that are contemplating construction projects. While both Sani and Dorje Dzong have ample supplies of water and area to support a plantation, the number of nuns has been stagnant and declining at Dorje Dzong in recent years.

The 6 nuns of Bya, aged 15 to 34, decided to build a small kitchen and passive solar sitting room next to their assembly hall. The nunnery, which was only founded 10 years ago, is one of the youngest and poorest nunneries in Zangskar. The kitchen will be built with local materials---rock and mud mortar---using the rocks and basic foundations of a ruined chapel that sits adjacent to the assembly hall. The site is ample, south facing, and building materials are readily available from the existing ruins. The nuns will spend the Gaden Relief funds on hiring masons and carpenters as well as purchasing the wooden beams, cross-beams, posts, doors, lintels, windows, and other building materials besides the available rock and mud. In 2010, funds permitting, the Bya nuns will construct a passive solar room in front of their kitchen that can serve as a winter study and prayer room.

The eight nuns from Pishu suffer from a severe water problem. All winter the nuns are forced to melt and drink snow and ice during the winter, while in the summertime the nuns (after one nearby spring dries up in August) have to carry water on their backs for 2 km, as the closest source of water becomes the fresh spring well below their nunnery and their village. Gaden Relief has spent the last two years evaluating how best to help provide water for the nuns but NOT duplicate what the Indian govt should be or will be providing, in terms of drinking water. The government has tried to build a hand pipe, but the machine broke and now the government states that Pishu doesn't have any ground water anyway, so they refuse to try to build a hand pump again. However, we have located an ideal water source approximately two kilometers up the mountain from the nunnery that could feed both the nunnery and the village, that the PWD (Public Works Department) had not bothered to survey. We propose to build a glass house and water storage tank at this location similar to the one built in Karsha but bigger as this water source could serve the entire village. We propose to insure first that the PWD install a hand pump if needed, and also ask the PWD to build a concrete path/small road that could make this site accessible to motorcycles or wheeled handcarts, to ease the transport of the water from this remote location. The site is rocky, so fitting the pipe into the ground is nearly impossible. It is not feasible or logical to install a below ground all-year water canal as blasting the hillside to submerge the canal would incur considerable expense. Lauren has visit the Public Works Department in Padum several times, to arrange that the government agree to pay for 90% of the cost of the water system.

Chumig Gyartse Nunnery, located about an hours walk from Sarchu Village on the Manali-Leh road, received 4 solar lanterns hand built by the Sani nuns. We did not visit the nunnery this year, we will assess the current situation and begin a project in the summer of 2010.

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