Spiti, Lahaul and Upper Kinnaur which lie in the Trans-Himalayan cold desert belt of HP witness a 6 month long winter where the temperatures fall down to as low as -30 degrees centigrade. Moreover, due to its high altitude (the average habitable altitude is 3700 mts asl) and extreme winter climate, vegetation is sparse. This makes availability of fuel-wood extremely scarce and most of the winter supply of fuel-wood
is brought in from outside and supplied to the community at a high subsidy by the Government. This leads to high emissions
of greenhouse gases and creates dependence of the locals on the government. Moreover, the burning of wood, coal, dung and other bushes to cook, heat water and warm their houses causes pressure on the environment and contributes to hazards of global warming and climate change.
Due to the long winters, the summers are a very busy time as the Spiti people have to earn the major part of their livelihood from activities such as agriculture, daily wage labour, etc during these short summer months. Apart from generating their livelihoods during this time, the women also need to devote a significant part of their summer and autumn labour (between 2 to 4 hours a day) to collect the 4 to 5 tons of fuel wood required to cook food , heat water and warm the house during the winter months. The burning of fuel wood also generates a lot of smoke that is emitted by the combustion of dung in energy inefficient and poor quality stoves. As the rooms are not well ventilated due to the extreme cold temperatures, the ambient air is smoky and is an irritant for the eyes and leads to lung disease in the long run. Finally, shortage of fuel (bush and dung) and the high price of imported conventional fuel results in a situation of energy vulnerability.
Although Spiti is extremely cold in the winters, it has an abundance of sunny days. Simple solar technologies, based on passive solar concepts with the usage of local material, are being used as tools to create new economical avenues for the local populace during the winters. For instance, greenhouses, poultry farming, handicraft development and solar dryers for fruit processing are some of these activities. The same technology is also being used to reduce the consumption of fuel wood in the winters thus contributing in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.