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Green Housing to Improve Energy Efficiency on Mount Qomolangma

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Cattle dung has traditionally been a major source of household energy for 55-year-old Yuzhen and her neighbors in the Ralong Village, Dingri County, at the foot of Mount Qomolangma.

A solar-based house newly built in her village, 40 kilometers away from the base camp of the mountain, however, is poised to provide a new way of living by reducing local residents' dependency on cattle dung for warmth on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Every year, Yuzhen's eight-member family burns 300 sacks, or 2,000 kilograms, of dried cattle dung. Half of them are bought from others or at the market.

Sometimes, they collect wood or turf to supplement energy supplies, but the amount is quickly decreasing due to the deteriorating surroundings. Sandstorms, for example, are more frequently seen than before in Yuzhen's village, even in the weather-favorable summer.

Cattle dung is a cheap option, but it contributes to pollution and is not very efficient.

"In winter, the inside temperature drops to below four degrees centigrade at midnight," Yuzhen said.

During the freezing-cold winter, a sound sleep is barely possible, she said. Adding to the woe is the suffocating smog out of the small stove in the living room.

The poor traffic conditions in the region 4,300 meters above sea level make it hard to access petroleum or natural gas that is transferred into Tibet from Golmud, a major city in neighboring Qinghai Province, which is 1,000 kilometers from Lhasa.

Yuzhen's hard times might ease with the construction of a pilot house designed by experts from the China National Engineering Center for Housing Settlements (CNECHS) during their visits to the plateau. The program was part of the Action at the Third Pole of the Earth in late 2008 and early 2009, an annual environment-protection project in China.

Yuzhen's family was selected for the pilot.

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