Welcome to the Jungle!
A couple of days ago we got the rare chance to visit the Tala Hydroelectric Plant and hike through the jungle to visit a remote local village all in one day! The Director of the College called us around 7:00am that morning and asked us if we wanted to visit the Tala Hydroelectric Plant. Since I only had a few days left in Bhutan we decided to blow off work for a few hours and go with the Director. Of course blowing off work was perfectly okay since the Director was the one that invited us. The Tala Hydroelectric project is very important to the tiny town that we live in. All of the buildings here in Gedu were built and previously owned by Tala during the project. In fact, the building that we live in, The Guest House, was officially handed over to the College just a week or so after we arrived! Tala still plays a huge role here! The Tala project was a joint effort between India and Bhutan and now supplies a large amount of electricity to Bhutan and India alike. The plant that we visited is a huge power house inside a mountain! It was amazing! Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures of the plant, but just imagine a giant power plant with six huge generators inside of a huge mountain! Very impressive engineering! You walk into the side of the mountain via a huge tunnel big enough for vehicles! We were very lucky to have to chance to go, as I do not believe that many people are allowed inside. Luckily one of the Director’s former students was working as an engineer there and was able to get us right in!
Before we went to the plant the Director’s driver Anil dropped us off near the river to meet the director. Some of the faculty and students from the College were hiking around to various local villages conducting a survey on the social impact of the Tala Hydroelectric Project. Tala is planning to instal another dam that will cause flooding in many areas. Many of these villages will be wiped out and the people will have to be relocated. The survey was done to get an estimate of what the people in the villages will lose and thus how much they will need to be compensated. The problem is that these villages are tiny farming communities located in remote parts of the jungle, accessible only by foot. The people have built their lives in these areas for generations, living off of the land and selling crops for a little extra money. If they have to be relocated they will lose not only the homes that their families have lived in forever, but also the animals and orchards that make up their livelihood.
It was truly an eye-opening and a once in a lifetime experience that we will not soon forget! To reach the village that we visited we had to hike through the jungle! It was full of plants and bugs that I have never seen before! The people in the village were so nice and even offered us lunch! We had some Maggie noodles with fresh mint from their garden! After lunch we hiked back to the road, where Anil picked us up and drove us to the power plant. By the time we made it back to Gedu later that day we were exhausted, but it was well worth it! It was one of the best days that I have had here in Bhutan! None of the tourists get a chance to do that!