Electricity powers economic development in southern Afghanistan
March 18, 2013
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 18, 2013) -- Modern economic development requires energy to fuel everything from factory floors filled with machinery to a single sewing machine at a tailor's modest shop. To that end, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented a transitional solution that provides consistent, predictable electricity to businesses in Kandahar Province: the Kandahar Bridging Solution.
The bridging solution provides diesel-powered generators at two strategic locations in Kandahar City, explained Chief Warrant Officer 4 Keith Wright, a power production expert and the U.S. Army Prime Power liaison with the Afghanistan Engineer District-South.
According to the United Nations, Afghanistan ranks among the nations with the lowest electricity production per capita in the world. Poor access to electricity has been identified by the World Bank as the number one obstacle to investment in Afghanistan.
Recognizing the connection between electricity, security and economic development, the U.S. Government together with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, sought ways to improve electricity production and distribution as part of Afghanistan's reconstruction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, and its partners, including Afghanistan's national utility company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, are hard at work building lasting solutions to improve power distribution and reliability throughout the country.
The on-going Southeast Power System-Kandahar and Southeast Power System-Helmand projects, which both seek to repair and rebuild existing transmission lines and substations, are USACE projects that should deliver more enduring fixes, explained Wright.
At the Shurandam Industrial Park in Kandahar, where eight diesel-powered generators within the bridging solution program operate, nearly 70 businesses are up and running, providing such things as plastic wares, rubber goods and textiles to customers. Before the bridging solution, businesses may have only received 12 hours of electricity in a 48-hour period. Now, electricity is available to them nearly 24 hours per day. Eight other diesel-powered generators within the bridging solution provide power to dozens of businesses in the Bagh-E-Pol area of Kandahar City.
Col. Vincent Quarles, commander of the South District, cautions that the bridging solution is just that, a temporary bridge leading toward the enduring solution.
"The generators are not the long-term, sustainable option, which is why we, along with our Afghan partners, other federal agencies and the international community, are repairing and rebuilding electrical distribution systems," Quarles, explained.
The Kandahar Bridging Solution has provided a reliable, temporary electricity solution that has powered economic development in Kandahar. Simultaneously, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and partners are laboring on longer-lasting infrastructure repairs.
Both efforts facilitate continued economic development and increased security and stability for the benefit of Afghans.