Science, Tech & Environment

Hydro-power for Afghanistan

(When you were at this plant a year ago, why were you there and what did the area look like?) I went there with a NATO mission and they took us there by helicopter which was the only safe way to travel there and they wanted to show how they were trying to rebuild this power plant to provide electricity and a better quality of life. The concern was already there: there had been attacks on the plant just days before we had been there, and the engineers had had to flee. There had been constant attacks throughout the area and the British military were pressed very hard. We were only there for 35 minutes and it would've been unsafe to have been there longer. (So why is this area such a priority then?) Because the Taliban are there and trying to halt the efforts to bring electricity to the region. They don't want the hearts and minds to shift to the coalition forces, and electricity could do just that for people who have never lived with electricity in their lives. (There are 1.5 million people in a very large region.) Yes, the electricity grid will be another massive part of this project which hasn't even been planned yet. (And if delivering this turbine was difficult, then the power grid will be even more so.) Yes, and normally roads are built before heavy equipment is delivered, but they couldn't build the road first because of the security concerns. So building roads and putting up power lines will be very difficult, and they're already years behind schedule. (Do you think word is getting out that there is some kind of progress being made or are people too cynical?) I think people need to see the results, and anything else will fall short. Villages and towns are empty in this region because there's so much fighting. (Who's paying for the turbine?) USAID is paying for it, and it's projected to cost $500 million dollars but that doesn't calculate the cost of this mission just to deliver the turbine. I'll doubt we'll ever know the final tally.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

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