For the people in the region, it is an attraction of great importance. They regularly take excursions to the construction site in northeast Afghanistan. A hydropower plant is currently being built near Faizabad, which will supply electricity to 15,000 households.
Video: The hydropower plant near Faizabad is an attraction for the people of the region (KfW Bankengruppe/Breuer).
On a hill outside Faizabad, two men are sitting on carpet in a makeshift café. The floor is made of wooden pallets, a tarpaulin attached to wooden poles serves as a roof. The men are wearing traditional Afghan clothing and drinking unsweetened tea. In the inhospitable scree landscape, Afghanistan looks like something from the past. But what the men are looking at does not conform to the widespread cliché of a deeply traditional country: beneath them lies a torrential river which will soon be harnessed to generate electricity.
The Shorabak hydroelectric power plant, which is currently being built here, is an attraction. A man from the region opened the tearoom last year to give local residents a place to watch the progress of construction. “Most people come Fridays with their families. They make themselves really comfortable here, with a picnic and everything,” says Ali Karakaya, who is standing next to the café and also looking out over the construction site. Karakaya is the mechanical engineer in charge in Shorabak. He works for Fichtner, a globally operating engineering company for infrastructure projects. Together with the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water and KfW, which is providing up to 67 million euros for the project on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the company is monitoring the construction of the hydropower plant.
This project is extremely important for the region. About 30,000 people live in Faizabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan. In the past, Faizabad was cut off from the rest of the country – and in some cases still is today. There are still very few paved roads, no industry – and most importantly, hardly any electricity. The state electricity authority only supplies electricity to residents between six and ten o’clock in the evening. Anyone who needs electricity outside these hours has to rely on generators. This is not just detrimental to the environment because the generators run on diesel, it also results in economic losses because this electricity is expensive: a kilowatt hour in Faizabad costs 45 Afghani, which is around 50 euro cents. In other parts of Afghanistan, a kilowatt hour is available for around seven Afghanis, i.e. just eight euro cents.
Electricity for 15,000 families
Men like the welder Eynollah demonstrate the problems that result from the inadequate supply of electricity. He runs a small workshop on the outskirts of Faizabad. If he wants to solder metal, he almost always has to turn on the generator. He has a special setup for working at customers’ homes: a generator is mounted on his bicycle, which he rides around town. “We have a lot of problems because of the generators,” says Eynollah, “they are loud, dirty and most of all expensive.” He recently had to cancel another job because he couldn’t get up the hill to his customer's house with the heavy generator on his bike. He says that a lot of people also can’t afford to pay for his work. “I always have to factor the electricity into my prices. When we get electricity from the hydropower plant in the future, we can produce more and at a lower cost. This will benefit us as workers, as well as our customers and of course the economy.”
“It is the most important infrastructure project in the region in the last few decades”
15,000 households will be supplied with electricity around the clock, at the equivalent of five euro cents per kilowatt. The flood gates are already finished. The roof structure is currently being built and everything is being readied to install the three turbines that will convert the hydraulic energy into electricity in the future.
Council of Elders protested against construction stop
People in the region are relieved that construction is now running smoothly because shortly after the power plant was agreed in 2014 and construction began in 2015, the project came to a standstill. The reasons for this were geological miscalculations and unexpected additional costs. Rumours spread among the population that the project would be cancelled. People wanted to prevent this and started to mobilise.
One of them was Abdul Basir Waseeq, head of the Faizabad Council of Elders. He calls the hydropower plant “the most important infrastructure project in the region in the last few decades”. Together with citizens, activists and local politicians, the elders organised protests, sought dialogue with the government and put pressure on Kabul. “Plans for the plant have existed for more than 40 years,” says Abdul Basir Waseeq, “we wanted to avoid further delays at any cost.” In the end the demonstrators were successful. And the Ministry of Energy and Water sent an engineer from Kabul to mediate between the government and the local inhabitants. He works closely with Fichtner’s engineers.
Like Ali Karakaya, he is confident that from now on nothing will go wrong. He looks at the construction site and at the 189 workers who live here in containers and who work in the Afghan afternoon sun, digging, insulating, installing. “I think that we will finish our work in December 2020,” says Karakaya. Then, the men on the hill will lose the spectacle of the construction site but an entire region will win opportunities.
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy
Close to 80 per cent of the energy produced worldwide still comes from fossil fuel sources. Burning fossil fuels also generates costs for the health system due to air pollution and costs for climate-related damages that harm the general public, not just those burning the fuel.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.
Published on KfW Stories: 20 February 2020