More Power to the Panjshir!
On a recent trip to Afghanistan’s beautiful Panjshir Valley, my travel companions and I were intrigued by the simple yet complex network of rustic water wheels, river dams, lock systems, and stone channels we saw scattered along the river that courses through this valley.
Hand built using rocks, wood, old rusted car parts, and other local materials, these simple water management devices do on a micro scale what big hydro – electric plants, generators, and dams do on a grand scale in the industrialised world. Even for a non-technical person such as myself, it was obvious to me that following nearly three decades of fighting, the people of Panjshir, always known for their fierce independence and enterprising characteristics, are harnessing the power of water to provide inexpensive and renewable power for their nearly inaccessible mountain villages.
Back in Kabul, I researched the topic and learned that teams of foreign military and civil engineers along with their Afghan counterparts have been busy over the past few years working on projects that use the natural power of mountain rivers to generate much-needed electricity to this remote province. A number of micro hydroelectric power plants are being constructed across the territory that enhance the original water wheels and stone aqueducts to control and channel water from high in the mountains to supply clean and renewable energy to homes in the area as well as irrigation needs throughout the valley.
In addition to providing a clean, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly source of power, the micro hydroelectric plants take advantage of natural resources and generate employment and revenue within local Panjshiri communities. These water power projects further enable the development and growth of other small businesses, schools and clinics that are able to utilise the power being provided by nature’s greatest gift to all of us – water.
As history has shown, once again the people of the Panjshir have proven themselves to be independent and strategic thinkers who know how to use their special mountain environment to its best advantage. And this is the kind of entrepreneurial success story that makes living and working in Afghanistan enlightening and rewarding.