For centuries, the waters of the more than 6000 big and small rivers of Nepal have been harnessed to power traditional water mills, the ghattas. There are about 25,000 such ghattas operating in the country, hut attention is shifting to electrification.
Altogether 70 micro-hydro private sector turbines have been set up in 58 districts of Nepal. Eight of these are owned by small farmers groups, the rest by individual entrepreneurs. Together, the turbines generate about 700 kW of electricity and light up about 3,000 households.
Since 1984, entrepreneurs in remote districts such as Kalikot, Mustang and Solu-Khumbu have received installation subsidies of 75 percent for setting up micro-hydro units. Those in other districts receive a 50-percent subsidy. The total investment in the 70 projects has amounted to NRs 13 million, of which NRs 5.9 million is in loans provided by the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB/N), NRs 4 million is government subsidy, and NRs 3 million put up by the beneficiaries themselves. According to ADB/N, another 44 projects producing 674 kW are on the pipeline, 18 of which will be operational within 1991.
The cost of electricity provided is variable. In a bazaar town with an active economy, the monthly charge for a 40 watt bulb might be up to NRs 40 per month. Elsewhere, the price can dip to as low as NRs 15 per month. The main problem in lighting is the high mortality of light bulbs, and this has to do with voltage fluctuation. Since Indian governess have proved unwieldy, voltage regulators have to be imported from the United Kingdom, which greatly increases the cost of the units.