MINGORA: At a time when the country is facing acute power shortage and its citizens have to face prolonged outages, the mountain communities are getting access to cheaper and uninterrupted electricity being generated by their own water.
The story of the off grid mountainous Malakand region is different from rest of the country as they are making use of their huge water potential by establishing micro hydropower stations to generate cheaper electricity.
Realising the need of the off-grid remote communities, the European Union in collaboration with SRSP devised a project ‘Programme for Economic Advancement and Community Empowerment’ for rebuilding the war-torn and flood-devastated Malakand division and helping its people to resume social and economic recovery through a set of initiatives.
SRSP official says 100 MHPs supplying electricity to people in remote areas
Under the project for isolated non-grid rural communities, 165 micro hydropower generating units are being constructed with a production capacity of 21.7MW, benefiting 75,200 households.
“Of the 165 MHPs under the European Union-funded programme, almost 100 power stations have already been completed which have started supplying electricity to the local communities while work on the rest of the MHPs is going on and will soon be completed,” said Zahid Khan, programme manager of SRSP in Malakand division.
Taping the local water resources into power has multi-layer impacts on the socio-economic lives of mountain communities as they say their lives are changing positively.
“After 2010 floods a population of over 28,000 people in our valley sank in darkness as the electricity lines were disrupted. Since then we faced multiple issues and started lighting our buildings by diesel which was not only expensive, but also not affordable for poor communities,” Shaukat Ali, a resident of Kalam said.
“The people had to pay Rs20 to the shopkeeper who had a generator for charging mobile phone,” said Izahr Ali, another resident.
“After construction of Jungle Inn and Ashuran power stations we started getting cheaper and uninterrupted electricity. We have to pay three rupees per unit for domestic use and seven rupees per unit for commercial use,” said Akbar Khan, a shopkeeper at Kalam Bazaar.
Similarly, residents of Serai village in Mankyal valley in Upper Swat said that the introduction of electricity brought positive changes in their lives.
As many as 700 households get electricity from the 80-kilowatt MHP installed under the project.
“The electricity facilitated our women to a great extent as they can now wash clothes by electric machines,” said Bahar Ali, a resident of Kedam valley where 50KW MHP was constructed.
In many areas the MHPs power electric dryers, which according to the local farmers are transforming their lives towards economic advancement as they saw 80 per cent increase in their profits.
Experts say that Malakand division has abundant hydropower potential and the government and non-government organizations must come forward to tap the water resources into energy and help bring out the country out of the energy crisis.
Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017