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Editorial: Power distribution

Afghanistan got the potential to generate around 314,500 MW of electricity from different sources. Unfortunately, the leaders prefer easy ways to deal with the problems; therefore, the country imports around 76 percent of the required electricity from Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Sustainability and effectiveness of the projects remained low priority. That’s why 60 percent of the population is deprived of this modern but essential facility, as confirmed by the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat in August last year. Only the Asian Development Bank (ADB) seems mostly concerned about miseries of Afghans because it has provided $275 million to the current government for expansion of power infrastructure. Where and how the government will spend this amount is a mystery because the Afghan authorities had not shared the details in this regard.

Without increased production of power, Afghan economy cannot recover. Local production is of the utmost importance because it not only feed the starving industries but also gives control over the resources to local people. It enables the authorities to fix rates of the electricity per unit in Kabul. Exported electricity should be seen as a short-term and costly project, especially when many powerful individuals and organizations in the country do not pay their utility bills. In December 2015, there were 25 state institutions that owed over Afs2.7 billion in unpaid electricity bills. In such circumstances we cannot rely on imported electricity because corruption is rampant and exporters would not supply electricity for long if they were not paid.

To recover the losses, the state-run electricity supplying company will drop bomb on the poor consumers as it did recently because it is helpless against the government entities and influential people. Fortunately, completion of the Salma Dam in Herat is a good sign and a precious gift from India. It is a step forward in the direction of local power production to reduce reliance on imported electricity. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the dam this week. Electricity produced by the dam will bring the dying industries in Herat to life. Many businessmen and industrialists have expressed concerns over unavailability of adequate electricity in the province.

Taking Salma Dam as an example, the government should complete work on the ongoing power projects. Priority should be given to building new hydropower dams, solar, wind and coal power plants. However, the distribution of power shall not fall prey to politics. People in areas that produce electricity have the right to get power first. In second phase electricity should be supplied to those areas where industries are dying due to power starvation. Politicizing the distribution process would not only create differences but also result in collapse of many industries. Afghanistan needs investment to give new life to the dying economy.

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