FEATURE STORY

Micro-hydroelectric Dams Sustain Life in Rural Communities

February 9, 2016

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Yunos has been in charge of the Sabzaab village micro-hydroelectric station. He controls the distribution of power to the village and the schools.

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Story Highlights
  • Small-scale projects to increase access to electricity, such as the construction of micro-hydroelectric dams, are having significant impact on the lives of rural communities across Afghanistan.
  • These sub-projects, funded by the National Solidarity Program, are part of the concerted effort by the Government of Afghanistan to significantly increase electricity coverage of the population.
  • More than 8,000 energy sector sub-projects have been financed under the program, supported by the World Bank, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF).

SHIBAR DISTRICT, Bamyan Province – Mohammad Yunos, 27, uses all his strength to open the big valve above the turbine. The water purls toward it and the belt around the turbine begins to spin and drive the poly dynamo, which gains momentum and turns on the ampere light.

Yunos has been in charge of the Sabzaab village micro-hydroelectric station for two years. He comes to the station on time every day to control the distribution of power. Village households receive electricity from 5 pm to 8 am, while schools are provided electricity during the whole school day.

Sabzaab village is located in Shibar district, 20 km northeast of Bamyan city, capital of Bamyan Province. It is among the thousands of villages the Government of Afghanistan is targeting to increase access to electricity in rural areas, where more than 77 percent of the population live. According to 2011-2012 estimates by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), rural access to electricity covers only 9 percent of the total population. The percentage of population with access to electricity in Afghanistan is among the lowest in the world, in spite of gains in electricity coverage since 2002, with most going to urban areas.

Over the last 12 years, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), under MRRD, has invested over $200 million in projects to provide access to energy to over four million people in rural communities. More than 8,000 energy sector sub-projects, which have a total generation capacity of over 100 MW of power, have been financed under NSP. A recent randomized impact evaluation of NSP underlined that the energy related projects scored well on both impact and sustainability, exemplified by the recent sub-project in Sabzaab village.

Funding for building the micro-hydroelectric dam in Sabzaab village was provided through NSP, the government’s flagship program for rural development. NSP is currently in its third phase and aims to generate a strong sense of ownership and social stability while enhancing service delivery and security through empowerment and development activities that communities identify, plan, manage, and monitor on their own. It is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and Japanese Social Development Fund (JSDF).

In a sign of ownership, communities contribute in cash, kind, and voluntary labor toward the sub-projects implemented through NSP. Sabzaab residents, for example, contributed some 87,000 Afghanis ($1,350) of the total cost of 1.9 million Afghanis ($29,000) for construction of the micro-hydroelectric dam.

The construction of the micro-hydroelectric dam took two years and was completed in June 2014. The sub-project was implemented by the Sabzaab Community Development Council with technical cooperation from the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), as Facilitating Partner. 


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The micro-hydroelectric dam has brought the convenience of electric light to the people and provided farmers with sufficient water supply to irrigate their farms around the dam.

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

" Construction of the micro-hydroelectric dam has not only brought the convenience of electric light to the people, but also has provided farmers with sufficient water supply to irrigate their farms.  "

Karim Bakhsh

Head, Sabzaab Community Development Council

Sustainable energy source

The challenge remains to provide affordable, sustainable power supply options to rural communities. Sabzaab village’s main source of electricity was solar panels before the micro-hydroelectric dam was constructed, but they proved insufficient for village needs due to scarce sunshine in winter and the geographical landscape of the area. Residents had access to electricity for only three to four hours every 24 hours, with a weak electric current that could be used only for lighting.

“In addition to being expensive, the solar panels’ battery and inverters would depreciate frequently,” says Yunos. “Fortunately, villagers no longer need to experience such issues.”

Today, Sabzaab residents enjoy modern conveniences as a result of the micro-hydroelectric dam. “All residents have television sets in their houses now,” says resident Haji Khodadaad, 45. “Women involved in livestock use electric butter churns to produce butter and doogh, a carbonated yoghurt drink. None of these appliances existed in the village in the past.”

The Sabzaab micro-hydroelectric dam, which has a capacity of generating 30 KW of electricity, provides power to all 88 families of Sabzaab and Joqol villages throughout the year. “This was not possible in the past,” says Haji Khodadaad. “Now in addition to using electricity for lighting, residents also are able to plug in and use various electrical appliances, including irons and water heaters.”

Moreover, since the dam was built, schools are able to provide computer classes to students, which help them greatly in their studies. Furthermore, students can now use their own computers, study, and do homework under the light of electric lamps at home.

Karim Bakhsh, head of Sabazaab Community Development Council, points out that the farmers, who are the majority of Sabzaab residents, also have benefited greatly from the dam. “Construction of the micro-hydroelectric dam has not only brought the convenience of electric light to the people, but also has provided farmers with sufficient water supply to irrigate their farms around the dam. Farmers have full-time access to sufficient water through the dam canal to irrigate their farms.”

Farmers living in the vicinity of the hydroelectric dam feel assured this year that their crops would be sufficiently irrigated. In the past, they irrigated their lands through a brook, which was extended from a remote source of water. Village residents are pleased that their lives have improved significantly through a sustainable and clean source of energy.

Over the last 12 years, the National Solidarity Program (NSP), under MRRD, has invested over $200 million in projects to provide access to energy to over four million people in rural communities.

Today, Sabzaab residents enjoy modern conveniences as a result of the micro-hydroelectric dam.

Construction of the micro-hydroelectric dam has not only brought the convenience of electric light to the people, but also has provided farmers with sufficient water supply to irrigate their farms around the dam. Farmers have full-time access to sufficient water through the dam canal to irrigate their farms.



VIDEO: Micro-hydroelectric Dam Improves Lives in Bamyan