Thousands in rural Afghanistan hook up to hydropower

Mar 11, 2011

Electricity lights up the lives of Afghan villagers
in the northern province of Takhar (Photo: UNDP)

Kabul - More than 6,200 households in rural or remote parts of Afghanistan will be hooked into a clean power supply through water-driven energy projects launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Households that previously relied on kerosene oil and other flammable or polluting fuel sources for cooking and for heating homes and businesses will receive more than 700 kilowatts of electricity from 34 hydropower turbines.

Each of the compact turbines, built around rivers or dams, converts clean hydropower into electricity for between 40 and 1,000 families.

“This is a big change for Afghanistan,” says Guillermo Garcia, Kabul-based project manager for UNDP.”Smoke from the old fuel would billow out into the rooms, affecting children and others. It wasn’t healthy. But now they’re using clean electricity.”

Six turbines built since last year are already in operation, supplying 153 kilowatts to more than 1,200 households in five provinces of Afghanistan.

About 85 percent of rural Afghanistan lacks electricity, and the country’s urban centres experience only intermittent or unreliable supplies.

UNDP, through its National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP), works with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development to support and fund such community-driven projects.

NABDP works with residents to form District Development Assemblies which identify community needs and priorities and devise community-oriented project plans.

The assemblies play an advisory role, coordinating the needs of communities with traditional government structures such as shuras, as well as provincial and district governments.

As a clear indication of the country’s enormous energy needs, communities have requested more than 150 micro hydropower units, which can range in cost from US$25,000 to US$165,000.

Already, 28 of these generators are under construction, with a total expected output of 550 kilowatts that will benefit more than 5,000 households.

The assemblies have also brought new schools, water supply and sanitation, and irrigation projects to their communities.

The Energy for Rural Development project is one of the major components of the National Area-Based Development Programme and currently works in seven provinces across Afghanistan: Badakhshan, Takhar, Samangam, Ghor, Herat, Bamiyan, Panjshir. It is supported by the Governments of Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the UK.

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