The newly formed union territory (UT) of Ladakh is known for its arid yet beautiful mountains, picturesque passes and Buddhist monasteries. The UT is popular among the bikers who ride all the way from the plains to experience the scenic yet rock roads in the region. The UT because of its unique topography is considered to be an eco-sensitive zone. As a result of this, the development of the area is stagnated for many years.
With more focus and innovations in sustainable development, the corporates are now utilizing their resources under CSR in Ladakh with the support of the government. In this context, let us look at the top CSR projects in Ladakh.
Obeetee Carpets Weaver Training Programme for women artisans
Obeetee Carpets, a hand-woven rug company announced in March this year that it has successfully concluded a 30-day weaver training program for women artisans of Ladakh. The training program was a government-led initiative to empower women artisans in Ladakh and provide them with an opportunity to learn new skills during the winter season, when they have downtime from household work.
The training program was divided into two parts, with 15 days of training conducted in Leh and another 15 days in Kargil. The local artisans were trained in Tibetan knotting techniques by master weavers. Kanhaiya Lal, Obeetee Carpets’ Tibetan Master Weaver, and Ramesh Maurya, Obeetee Carpets’ Persian weaver, led the training program.
The training program was aimed to create a community of skilled artisans who can produce high-quality, hand-woven rugs that meet international standards. Through this program, Obeetee Carpets is trying to support the local economy of Ladakh and provide sustainable employment opportunities for women artisans.
PwC India Foundation’s plantation drive near Leh
The PwC India Foundation, in partnership with the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), organised a plantation drive in a valley close to Leh, Ladakh, India to commemorate the World Environment Day in June last year.
Ladakh is a high-altitude desert where ecosystems and communities rely on glaciers releasing ‘fossil’ water from thousands of years ago. Climate change has caused the size of glacial streams to shrink in the upper valleys of Ladakh. To help solve the problem of water shortages in spring for the agriculture-dependent communities in the valleys of Ladakh, PwC India Foundation partnered with SECMOL in 2019 and started the ice stupa project, and has undertaken several other concerted efforts to restore the valley’s fragile ecosystem by improving its green cover and empowering communities by helping them generate livelihood opportunities.
Himalayan Khardung La Challenge 2022 held in Leh on Himalayan Day
The ninth edition of the 72-kilometer-long Himalayan Khardung La Challenge, the world’s highest Ultra Marathon came to a close on 9th September (Himalayan Day) last year. The finish point of the Marathon was the Leh Main Market while it kicked off from Khardung village. The prestigious marathon witnessed a momentous response from local communities across Ladakh. The Marathon was jointly organized by Himalayan, the premium mineral water brand from Tata Consumer Products Ltd and Ladakh Marathon to support the cause of protecting local communities affected by melting Himalayan glaciers.
The Marathon was run on the route from Khardung village and back to Leh City with nearly 200 participants. Deemed one of the most challenging marathons globally, The Khardung La Marathon also happens to be one of the world’s highest races starting at 17,618 feet. While the marathon kicked off at 3 am and ended at 5 pm in the evening, hundreds of people gathered at the starting point and finish line to cheer and support the cause of protecting local communities affected by melting Himalayan glaciers in the Ladakh region.
Geothermal Energy CSR Project by ONGC
Energy major ONGC has committed to implement India’s maiden Geothermal Field Development Project in Ladakh. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalize this has been inked by ONGC Energy Centre (OEC) with the Union Territory of Ladakh and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Leh on 6 February 2021. This MoU, which was signed in the presence of the Ladakh Lieutenant Governor, is the first step towards creating a Carbon Neutral Ladakh, a clarion call given by the Prime Minister of India on Independence Day 2020.
The project of ONGC will put India on the Geothermal Power map of the world. Geothermal resource development can revolutionize farming in Ladakh, which is now totally dependent on the supply of fresh vegetables, fruits from outside the UT round the year. Further, direct heat energy applications make it most relevant to Ladakh.
ONGC has planned this field development in Ladakh in three phases. Phase-I involves exploratory-cum-production drilling of wells up to 500 metres depth and setting up of a Pilot Plant of up to 1 MW power capacity. Phase-II would involve deeper and lateral exploration of the geothermal reservoir by drilling of an optimal number of wells and setting up of a higher capacity Demo Plant and preparing a Detailed Project Report. Phase III would involve the commercial development of the geothermal plant.
Project Axis Dil Se by Axis Bank
Axis Dil Se’ – Connecting Remote Communities is an ambitious initiative launched by Axis Bank in FY 2017-18 towards promoting inclusive growth in India’s remote borders through education to create an enduring change. Under the programme, the Bank undertook the transformation of over 100 primary schools in the remote villages in Leh and Kargil districts in the Union Territory of Ladakh over a period of three years and joined hands with its local implementation partner, 17000 ft. Foundation.
In the first year of the project, playground equipment was set up in the ‘DilSe’ schools as well as libraries in these schools were refurbished to include age-appropriate books that aided in inculcating a reading habit. In addition to this, a Central Library in Leh called the ‘The Next Chapter’ was inaugurated, where children come to read books and take part in various non-curricular activities that are conducted there.
In the second year of the project, ‘DigiLabs’, an innovative digital learning intervention comprising tablets with curated educational content and completely powered by solar energy was set up in the schools. Additionally, training was provided to the teachers to effectively utilise Digilabs.
In the third and final year of our DilSe intervention in Ladakh, age-appropriate classroom furniture was installed and learning material was provided to the supported schools. Significantly, the phase includes integration of Aanganwadi centres (Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) centres) with an aim to enhance the learning levels of the children coming to these Aanganwadis. An important aspect of the intervention is imparting training to teachers, Aanganwadi workers and the villagers, for effective utilisation of the Centres by all stakeholders. In addition to this, block-level training was conducted for headmasters and DigiLabs administrators to enable them to effectively use DigiLab.
The Axis DilSe Programme has been lauded by the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, which aims to use the programme as a template for scaling up the development of other schools and Aanganwadi centres in the Union Territory.
Royal Enfield’s CSR in Ladakh for Electrification of Umba Village
Under the guidance of Kargil Renewable Energy Development Authority (KREDA), the Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE) in partnership with the CSR project of Royal Enfield has installed a 17.5kW Solar Electricity system in Umba. The village is 60 KM away from district headquarter Kargil and is situated in the toughest terrain at 13,000 thousand feet height. It remains cut off for five months during winters and had no electricity till the end of last year. Under the project, 103 Solar Grids were set up in the region designed to serve a total of 97 Households and 7 Masjids with more than 500 LED Lights, along with street lighting for the community.
Each solar grid was provided with a battery backup that will enable 4 days of continuous grid running even in cloudy conditions.
IDBI Ladakh Project
‘Adoption of Taru village in Ladakh’ is a completed CSR project (April 2011 – March 2016) by IDBI Bank that involved collaborative intervention by the Bank with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). The project was aimed at rebuilding the lives and livelihood of a tiny hamlet named Taru in Leh, Ladakh, which was ravaged by a flash flood in 2010. Its intent was to transform the village into a “Model Village”, based on unique community participation and ownership model, through a set of pre-determined program activities, involving strengthening of community mechanisms and capacity building, among other initiatives. Recognizing the need of sustainable livelihood options against a backdrop of poverty, the project includes strengthening of income sources through value addition, marketing support, insurance, etc., counselling farmers on cash crops and capacity building of local populace and panchayat leaders. The project as envisaged encouraged direct participation from the affected community and instils in them a sense of responsibility and ownership of the assets (soft/ hard) created during the entire tenure of the project such as footbridges, water reservoirs, irrigation canals, etc. The village is expected to serve as a model for emulation in similar geographical terrains.
The project has been a game-changer CSR initiative not just for IDBI Bank but also for Taru village. The journey of Taru village from a disaster-hit area to a model village has been captured into a documentary titled ‘Taru Zameen Par’. A second documentary film is in the offing that will capture the status of Taru village post project completion. The project has also won several prestigious awards.
Forest Plantation Drive by Make My Trip
Ladakh region in the Himalayas is the cold desert region in India. In order to build sustainable solutions for the mountain communities, Make My Trip Foundation in association with Himalayan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL) has launched an afforestation project under its CSR in Ladakh. The project is the first of its kind that aims to plant 1.3 lakh saplings over the course of 2.4 years on the campus of HIAL University, Ladakh. Since Ladakh is a mountainous region with extreme climatic conditions, the plantation will be undertaken using the Miyawaki technique.
Sonam Wangchuk, Founding Director of HIAL said, “Our vision is to build sustainable ecosystems for the Himalayan communities through innovations like Ice Stupas and passive solar heated buildings. We are delighted to partner with MakeMyTrip for collaborative, community-driven initiatives for desert greening to help in its endeavour to offset the carbon footprint of travellers while simultaneously increasing the limited green cover in Ladakh.”