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Hydram – A low carbon technology

While the country is blessed with numerous rivers and streams fed by snow melting in high Himalayas, however, water is not available to the communities for drinking, farming and irrigation owing to higher elevation. Hydram is a resource efficient and low carbon technology to address the issue.

Community members contributing labor during the installation of Hydram at Mahadevsthan. oto: Courtesy CRT/N
Community members contributing labor during the installation of Hydram at Mahadevsthan. oto: Courtesy CRT/N

When we think about green economy, quickly three words come into mind ‘low carbon, resource efficient, socially inclusive’. UNEP defines green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.This article explains appropriateness of hydraulic ram pump (Hydram) technology for Nepal in the context of green economy.

Water for Agriculture

The average increase in temperature in Dhading is around 0.02oC a year, as indicated by the Department of Hydrology and Metrology, Nepal based on the records from 1995-2007.

Similarly, a lot of fluctuation has been recorded for rainfall. The local residents and farmers have felt adverse effects of these changing climatic conditions. With inadequate water supply for irrigation resulting from drought conditions during sowing period, farmers are facing loss in production.

While the country is blessed with numerous rivers and streams fed by snow melting in high Himalayas, however, water is not available to the communities for drinking, farming and irrigation as they reside at higher elevation. Due to the difference in the level of river and the residential area and cultivable land, there is a need to uplift water through up to the height. Hydram seems to be an ideal technology which is ‘resource efficient, low carbon and socially inclusive’ one. This technology can play a role in changing energy consumption pattern currently existing in Nepal.

The hydram concept was first developed in France in 1796. By the end of the twentieth century, interest in hydrams increased, owing to the need for sustainable technologies worldwide. Similarly, in Nepal the technology which was introduced decades ago was revived. Presently, the Centre for Rural technology, Nepal (CRT/N) is actively promoting this technology in the country. Two hydram systems were installed in Dhading district as pilot projects with technical support from CRT/N.

It is reported that energy consumption in agriculture sector is mainly for tractor and water pumping. About 95% of the total agricultural energy comes from petroleum products specially diesel fuel, while electricity consumption is increasing by about 8 % annually. There are a few cases where solar pumping is applicable for irrigation but high investment cost hinders its smooth promotion in the country. The share of renewable energy resources in overall consumption in Nepal is only 1 % where use of renewable energy technology in agriculture sector is negligible.

Hydram is identified as one of the appropriate technologies for the micro-irrigation in Nepal, which has potential to support efforts towards greening the economy. Communities are planning to install hydram for micro-irrigation purpose in the district, where irrigated agriculture is less in practice. It is expected to enhance livelihood opportunities such as animal husbandry, farming, and kitchen gardening for income generation contributing to poverty reduction.

Hydram Technology

A hydraulic ram pump (hydram) is an automatic pumping device which uses a large flow of water falling through a small head, to lift a small flow of water through a higher head. In simple words, this renewable energy technology uses power available from flowing water to lift certain volume of water to a greater height where it is required. The moving parts of the hydram are only two valves; therefore it is mechanically very simple. This gives high reliability, low operating costs, minimal maintenance and a long operation life to the system. In short, it is a ‘resource efficient’ and ‘low carbon’ technology.

The pilot initiative

The hydram systems are successfully operating at Sunaula Bazaar and Mahadevsthan Village Development Committees of Dhading district, for drinking and sanitation purpose respectively. People of Sunaula Bazaar and Mahadevsthan villages in Dhading district now have easy access to drinking water through water lifted by hydram. Earlier, they had to walk for about half an hour downstream to fetch drinking water. A beneficiary from Sunaula Bazaar says, “We now have clean drinking water. It has saved our time to collect water. It is incredible that water is lifted without electricity or generator.

Similarly, the hydram system at Mahadevsthan has provided water for sanitation and hygiene benefiting 600 students and teachers in the school. Communities are directly involved from the initial stage of the project including installation of the hydram. They contributed labor in kind “Shram daan” by helping in carrying out civil works for installation of the system. Water users group with women and socially excluded groups have been formed. “Now these girls do not have to miss their classes during menstruation period. The toilets here are now clean as adequate water is made available through hydram”, says a teacher from Mahadevsthan.

The success of the pilot initiative has motivated communities to use the technology for micro irrigation.

Lachana Shresthacharya

Lachana Shresthacharya is the Programme officer at Center for Rural Technology, Nepal. She can be contacted atlachana@crtnepal.org