Inspired by science and technology, Tibetans, who have long adored the sun as a god, are now putting their deity to work.
Granny Zhoi'ma, who lives in Dongjiao village of Gyangze county in southern Tibet Autonomous Region, was given a solar cooker by her daughter five years ago. But worried that using it would tire out the sun, asked her daughter to return the gift.
Today, Granny Zhoi'ma uses solar energy in cooking, heating and growing vegetables in her greenhouse.
"It (solar energy) will be lost if we don't use it," said Zhoi'ma.
Dainzin Wanggya, village head, said, "Local people had refused to accept free solar cookers presented by the government in the past since they took sun for a god, who should not serve human beings."
Training on science and technology knowledge in recent years has made locals more knowledgeable about the sun and solar energy. At present, all of the village's 247 households have installed solar cookers and vegetable-growing shelters that run on solar energy.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau abounds in solar energy with the radiant intensity on per sq m standing seven kilowatt-hours. The region receives about 3,400 hours of sunshine a year.
Statistics show that more than 300 photovoltaic power stations each with a capacity of three to five kilowatts and small independent photovoltaic power generating systems, with a combined capacity of 5,400 kilowatts, have been set up in Tibet over the past decade. This is in addition to the installation of some 110,000 solar cookers for local farmers and herdsmen.
These solar energy-driven facilities have enabled nearly one million farmers and herdsmen in the region to have access to electricity during the night and heating in the chilly winter.
Clean Energy Resources 'Stand Guard'
Gone are the days when smoke emitting out of chimneys which erect on top the houses of every household in rural Tibet, as solar cookers, gas-burning cookers and solar lamps have replaced traditional firewood, cow dung and ghee oil lamps.
"We use a solar cooker to boil water, a gas-burning cooker to cook meals and electric blankets to warm ourselves during the night," said Gyainor, a woman folk of Zhaqi village in Zhanang county, more than 160 km away from Lhasa.
"We seldom burn firewood now," said Gyainor, pointing to a pile of two cubic meters of firewood which she said had laid idle at one corner of her courtyard for over two years.
At present, 148 household of the Zhaqi village have 150 solar cookers and each household has a gas-burning cooker, said Soi'nam Ngoizhub, the 61-year-old village head.
Burning firewood and cow dung produces a lot of smoke. And consequently, many locals caught pneumonia, eye diseases -- some even lost their eyesight, the village head said.
It has long been a tradition in Tibet, especially in its rural areas, that people live on the top and domestic animals live in the lower parts of a same building. Today, the use of solar energy has prompted more Tibetans to stress sanitation in their living environment. Many Tibetans villagers have built a stable solely for their cows and a toilet for themselves.
"With the clean energy 'standing guard,' sanitation has improved a lot in rural areas and incidence of diseases has dropped markedly," said Yangzom Bai'ma, head of the Gela village of Nedong county in Shannan prefecture, southern Tibet.
Utilization of clean energy resources like solar energy has not only changed the traditional lifestyle of Tibetans, but helped improve local environment.
Lhasa, the most populous city in Tibet, reported 355 fine or fairly fine days last year. The amount of carbon dioxide discharged into the air was cut by 37.9 percent year on year and no acid rain spotted, according to the Tibet Autonomous Regional Environmental Protection Administration.
"This has so much to do with the extensive use of clean energy resources," said Chen Xianshun, a top official with the administration.
The use of solar energy saves as much as approximately 130,000 tons of coal each year, according to the regional center for solar energy research.
(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2004)