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

Zangskar Project Report, Summer 2010

By Kim Gutschow, Zangskar Project Coordinator, and Lauren Galvin, Zangskar Project Officer

The summer of 2010 was an extremely fruitful year for the Zangskari nuns. Gaden Relief funds for 2010 totaled roughly 360,000 Rupees (or 360 K; henceforth all funds listed in thousands or K) thanks to our compassionate and generous donors and the organization of Conrad Richter and Kim Gutschow. This money was used for a variety of projects at the 10 nunneries spread across Zangskar based on needs assessments that Gaden Relief conducted in 2007, 2008, and 2009 when an initial amount of funds was advanced towards many of the projects. Each nunnery has varying needs and as it is not possible to complete large projects at more than one or two nunneries, there is necessarily variation in the funds allotted to each nunnery. As in past years, the officers of the Gaden Relief Zangskar Project (Kim Gutschow and Lauren Galvin) made funding decisions in consideration of the funds that each nunnery has already received from Gaden Relief in previous years and according to the most pressing needs.

Below is a brief chart outlining funds disbursed in 2009 and 2010 and a ratio of funds/nun (dividing total funds/number of nuns) received at each nunnery.

Nunnery (# nuns)Funds In 2009Funds In 2010Funds TotalFunds/Nun
Skyagam (17)20 K70 K90 K5.3 K
Manda (8)19.5 K17.6 K37.1 K4.6 K
Sani (15)40 K80 K120 K8 K
Tungri (10)30 K21.8 K51.8 K5.2 K
Dorje Dzong (10)25 K25 K50 K5 K
Karsha (20)50 K30 K80 K4 K
Bya (6)24.5 K15 K39.5 K6.6 K
Zangla (12)30 K50 K80 K6.7 K
Pishu (10)22.4 K40 K62.4 K6.2 K
Chumig Gyartse (6)6 K10 K16 K2.7 K

This chart clearly indicates that Sani ranks at the top of the chart in funds received per nun as well as total sum received in the past two years. Considering only the total sum disbursed, Sani, Skyagam, Zangla, and Karsha would top the list. However, Karsha is near the bottom and Zangla near the top in terms of funds per nun. If one were to consider the nunneries that have received the least funds per nun thus far, Chumig Gyartse, Manda, and Karsha (the bottom three in rank) would clearly deserve the largest projects next year. If Gaden Relief can only support half of the 10 nunneries next year, perhaps only the bottom five should be chosen? Yet if one considers need alone and the lack of past funds from Gaden Relief, Bya is one of the most deserving nunneries due to its remote location, extreme poverty, lack of other sources of funding, and lack of funding overall from Gaden Relief. As this calculus makes clear, Gaden Relief will need to take all of these and other factors into account when making its assessment for how to fund the nunneries next year. For now, let us turn to the projects completed or near completion and how funds were used at the nunneries across Zangskar.

Skyagam Nunnery

Passive solar room at Skyagam Nunnery
Home to 17 nuns and one of the coldest nunneries in Zangskar, Skyagam Nunnery received 70K of Gaden Relief 2010 funds to build a passive solar room, in addition to 20K received in 2009. Measuring 16ft x 20 ft inside and built with double walls and straw insulation as per ICIMOD specifications for high altitude passive solar buildings, the construction took over two months of relentless hard labor. The room was built with a trombe wall of double windows on its south wall and a cement wall behind the glass, painted black to attract the sun. There are openings from this space into the room behind that slowly release heat into the room during the evening hours. The design was borrowed from the Leh based NGO, LeDEG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group), and the construction was overseen by a mason trained in Leh in the construction of passive solar building. This winter the nuns will experience the extent to which a passive solar design can reduce heating expenses and facilitate wintertime study and practice. The total cost of the building was 95K due to the increased cost of wood and labor in Zangskar and because the nuns built a small additional hallway connecting their passive solar room with the kitchen, in order to connect the two major sources of heat to each other most efficiently. This hallway also makes carrying the food into the winter study room more convenient and efficient and prevents the heat loss of opening doors to the outside. Gaden Relief has learned a great deal from this construction process about the importance of site alignment, design, insulation, and the cooperation needed between nuns, villagers, and construction workers.

Manda Nunnery

Completed washroom and toilet at Manda Nunnery
Home to 8 nuns, Manda Nunnery received 17.6 K of Gaden Relief 2010 funds to complete the washroom/toilet that they had begun building with 15K in 2009. This years funds were used to fit the washroom with tiles and cement, as well as mud plaster, while adding necessary cement steps outside the washroom/toilet. The nuns also built a storage room below the washroom for wood/cow dung. The washroom measures nearly 6x8 ft. inside, and due to its size more wood than predicted was needed for the purchase of doors, windows and floor/ceiling beams. The breakdown of costs was as follows: 12 K was used for tiles , 0.6 K was for transportation of tiles and laborers from Padum to Manda, and 5 K was used for labor costs. In future, the Manda nuns plan to construct a new kitchen which would be attached to a passive solar room for winter study and ritual.

Sani Nunnery

A new 50 foot greenhouse completed at Sani Nunnery. To reduce heat loss the greenhouse is dug into the slope.
Home to 15 nuns, Sani received 80 K funds in 2010 and 40 K in 2009 to complete a commercial size greenhouse (50ft x16 ft) and a rock wall around their nunnery perimeter. The greenhouse, which cost 44 K, has double walls and straw insulation on the west and east sides, as well as doors and windows provided by LEHO, an NGO in Leh. The nuns used 80 K to complete a rock wall that extended more than 800 ft, at a height of 4.5 ft using local stone and mortar on the upper half of the fence. The construction was undertaken by the resident nuns, 4 masons, and 2 stone-cutters and several other villagers who contributed their help in moving stones, etc. As Sani nunnery has extensive water and land, and a youthful population the nuns plan to develop plantations within their nunnery compound. Next year, the nuns will need to build another approximately 700-800ft of rock walll in order to secure their plantation and fields at a potential cost of roughly 80K.

Tungri Nunnery

New washroom for Tungri's nuns.
Home to 10 nuns, was allotted 21.8 K from Gaden’s 2010 funds for the renovation of their washroom/toilet and tile fitting, in addition to 30K received in 2009. The Tungri nuns had two traditional compost toilets side by side, one of which was renovated into a washroom, while the adjacent toilet was made smaller and thus warmer. The washroom was fitted with tiles and cement and a water pipe/shower system with a 500ltr water tank was placed above the washroom. The black tank allows water to warm during the day before it is used in the washroom or for other purposes. The tile fitting and pipe system cost 16K, the water tank cost 2K, and the remaining costs were for labor and food for the nuns and masons who worked on the project. The nuns used the 30 K from 2009 for the repair of their plantation fence in the village, the repair of a greenhouse whose walls had collapsed due to heavy rains during the spring, and the construction of a small compost pit to make fertilizer for their greenhouse. The major costs of this project besides labor included black paint, a black plastic sheet, and chicken wire for fencing.

Next year, the nuns would like to build a passive solar room and LeDEG has agreed to sponsor window frames and one layer of glass in 2011, while a French donor will help with further material costs. Gaden Relief should take advantage of this co-sponsoring by beginning the construction in 2011. Tungri nunnery's water system was finally completed in the fall of 2010, involving a properly insulated pipe that carries water underground from upstream at a great distance along a cliff (as in Karsha). It is possible that Tungri will need a passive solar water house -- similar to the Karsha water house at a cost of roughly 70K -- prevent the exit pipe that takes water above ground from freezing. The nuns will determine their needs after the winter

One of Dorje Dzong's oldest nuns
Dorje Dzong Nunnery

Home to 10 nuns, Dorje Dzong received 20K in 2010 besides the 25 K received in 2009 to continue the construction of a wire fence around their extensive landholdings. Dorje Dzong has more fields and plantation lands than any other nunnery in Zangskar. The nuns purchased the same wire fencing and wooden poles as last year, yet they ran out of funds before completing the fencing. The Dorje Dzong nuns hope to buy more materials of wire fencing and wooden poles next year and possibly begin the construction of a greenhouse, as they have a south facing site and easily accessible water source. However, the aging population of nuns and their health problems may be obstacles towards a greenhouse which requires substantial labor to build and maintain.

Karsha Nunnery

Passive solar heated water house at Karsha Nunnery
Home to 20 nuns, Karsha received 30K in 2010, in addition to the 50K received in 2009 to complete the construction of their passive solar water house. The one-roomed water house is essentially a small double windowed room that houses a cement water storage tank where the water delivery pipe exits the ground from its passage along the cliff. This water pipe brings water from an upstream source all winter and summer and for the first time since Indian engineers began constructing the clifftop water delivery pipe in 1993, the nuns had water flowing on their compound throughout the winter. The total costs of materials and labor amounted to roughly 70 and the additional 10K were provided for maintenance of their water house, such as applying another layer of insulating mud plaster to inner and outer walls of the house.

Future needs at Karsha include a passive greenhouse (cost ? 50K) and tile fitting of their washroom for a cost of roughly 20K The nuns have begun to prepare the foundation for their greenhouse in 2010 and it is hoped that the Kargil government, LEHO, and Ledeg will help donate essential materials including the two ventilators, door, windows, and plastic sheeting.

Bya Nunnery

Home to 6 nuns, Bya Nunnery received 15K in 2010 in addition to 24.5 K in 2009 to build a small kitchen attached to the east side of their prayer hall. Only two new walls were constructed as the kitchen adjoins the mountainside and their prayer hall on two sides. Bya nunnery is also the warmest of all nunneries and would benefit from a passive solar room. However, the nunnery has very little land as it sits on a narrow cliff ledge and some of the surrounding area is prone to rockfall and thus unsafe for building. A small plot adjacent to the prayer hall that is suitable for building belongs to a local villager who is unwilling to donate any portion of the land to the nunnery. It remains to be seen what can be negotiated with the village council or through monetary means for the nunnery to gain a bit more space on a very narrow cliff ledge. As the nunnery is only accessible on foot in the Lungnak Valley, the delivery (by human or animal porters) of any materials is time-consuming and expensive. When the nuns finally submitted their bills for 2009 construction costs by mid summer, the major costs assumed were for labor, masonry, plastering costs, and wood for the door, beams, roofing, & windows.

Future needs include the construction of passive solar room, perhaps using glass and window frames donated by LeDEG, although labor and transport costs will be extensive at this remote location. Total costs may be between 30 and 60 K.

Zangla Nunnery

Home to 12 nuns, Zangla received 50 K of Gaden Relief 2010 funds along with 30K from 2009 to construct of a passive solar room. The room, which measures 16 x 20 ft and has double walls and south facing trombe wall, may well outrun these donations but other sources of funding are being sought. The walls are being made with rammed earth and mud bricks rather than rock and cement as mud is more heat efficient and less costly than cement or rocks in Zangla, although the mud bricks are more labor intensive. The nuns were loathe to be involved in the construction themselves and hired a local contractor to manage their construction, incurring some high costs early on. After spending 40K for wood beams and the costs of bricks, the nuns were urged to spend their funds more judiciously if room is to be built using existing funds. The nuns did not complete the room in 2010 but expect to do so in 2011, funds permitting.

Pishu Nunnery

Renovated kitchen at Pishu Nunnery
Home to 10 nuns, Pishu was allotted 20K of Gaden Relief funds in 2010, along with 22.4 K in 2009, to repair a collapsed kitchen that had crumbled after a heavy rainfall. The renovation and repair of the kitchen included adding larger windows, expanding the size, and connecting the kitchen to a small storage room from which wood and cow dung can be passed directly into the mudbrick hearths. The nuns planned on completing a traditional hearth based on a design based from the new kitchen at Stongde Monastery. The total cost of the kitchen was 57K, leaving 3K that will be used to finish the mud plaster and complete the fireplace.

In future, the Pishu Nuns hope to repair a greenhouse that has collapsed and several areas around their prayer hall that need wooden beams and new posts for support. In addition, they will discuss the question of water supply and see what the government and PWD (public works program) offers in that area, as it may be necessary to construct a water house at some point, should an underground pipe routing water from upstream sources be installed.

Chumig Gyartse

Home to 6 nuns, Chumig Gyartse received 10 K in 2010, and 6 K in 2009 for the purchase of solar lanterns and food expenses. Due to its remote location, Chumig Gyartse missed the extensive surveys Gaden Relief undertook to assess nunnery needs in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The nunnery was not visited in 2010 due to early snowfall and the closure of the Manali road, where the nunnery is located. The 10 K were to be sent to Chumig Gyartse by Ani Palmo, the president of the Ladakh Nuns Association, who is in contact with nuns and monks from the region. Future plans at the nunnery include a full assessment and a larger project such as a passive solar room, kitchen, or fencing for a plantation as land and water should be plentiful in this remote location.

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