Economy & Development

Power to the People (3): Perspectives from Bamyan


The TUTAP kerosene lamp memorial in the centre of Bamyan. Photo: Jelena Bjelica.

The TUTAP kerosene lamp memorial in the centre of Bamyan. Photo: Jelena Bjelica.

The TUTAP commission established by President Ghani following massive protests recently decided in favour of the Salang route for a north-south power line. The commission ruled further that Bamyan should get its own 220KV power line by 2019. This is a balanced solution in the midst of crisis, meant to temper ethnic tensions that arose from speculation and political manipulation on the original routing of the power line. Some members of the protest movement have accepted the decision but still question whether it will be implemented; others continue to mobilise. AAN’s Jelena Bjelica and Thomas Ruttig report from Bamyan, with contributions from Ali Yawar Adili, on the issue of the power supply to the province, the national power grid, regional electrical power sharing and the spectrum of opinions throughout the province.   

Electricity-related protests are not a new phenomenon in Bamyan. Civil society activists from Afghanistan’s central highlands organised the first protest in 2009. Esmail Zaki, Coordinator of the Civil Society and Human Rights Network for the Central Region, told AAN that the first protest was held under banners depicting typical Hazarajat shrubs with the slogan, “Please save me.” Bamyan is not connected to a national grid and activists have warned of an inevitable environmental catastrophe should local people be forced to continue using scarce vegetation, such as shrubs and bushes, in a region already prone to erosion, as their basic source of fuel. Therefore, the protests not only reflected a genuine ‘desire for electricity’ but also concerns for the local environment. However, he said, development needs got mixed up with political demands, and “the people who claim they are the leaders of these [May 2016 TUTAP] protests are the same people we were protesting against in 2009.”

Civil society networks in Bamyan province began to protest in 2009 because the province still had no reliable electricity supply, almost a decade into what was supposed to have been a reconstruction-oriented international intervention, that had brought in large amounts of investment. A 2011 Afghan government survey (1) found that “animal dung was the most common source of energy for cooking in Bamyan,” with 45.5 percent of households using it for this purpose, followed by straw, shrubs or grass and wood. In three out of five households, domestic solar power panels usually attached to the roof of a house were most commonly used for heating and lighting.

Dung cakes (chalma) are still widely used in rural areas of Bamyan, here stored in a cave. Photo: Thomas Ruttig.

Dung cakes (chalma) are still widely used in rural areas of Bamyan, here stored in a cave. Photo: Thomas Ruttig.

This situation changed for the better in January 2014, when a New Zealand-financed multi-million off-grid solar power project went online. (New Zealand led the Bamyan Provincial Reconstruction Team until April 2013 and the country continues to finance development projects in the province). With a 1 MW output, this is one of the largest off-grid solar systems in the world (for facts and figures about it see here). It originally supplied clean electricity 24 hours a day to 2,500 of the 3,500 households in Bamyan (with around 33,000 people, according to official Afghan data), businesses and government buildings, including schools and hospitals, in Bamyan’s New City and the towns of Haiderabad and Mulla Ghulam districts. The Norwegian government extended the system for an additional number of households in 2015.

However, while the off-grid solar panels are now providing a basic power supply to the provincial centre, it is still the only source of much-needed electricity to the province. AAN observed, while in Bamyan city, that electricity is not in fact available 24 hours a day; instead it runs from 6.00am to 11.00am and from 6.00pm to 11.00pm. A number of communities in and around the city still lack power (some people, mainly Tajiks and IDPs, still live in caves to the west of Bamyan city); and in the province’s outlying districts, the situation is, of course, much worse.

Many people in Bamyan city complain about how expensive solar electricity is. While Kabul citizens pay 2 Afghanis for 1kV, in Bamyan the price is 16 Afghanis. In September 2015, Ghulam Haidar Sadiqi, the director of Da Afghanistan Bresha Sherkat (DABS), the state-owned electricity company, said that a provincial committee had fixed the rates because of the high maintenance costs of the solar power system and its losses, including damaged batteries and solar panels.

In 2016, Zaki’s civil society network organised five TUTAP-related protests. The protesters demanded that the route of a planned high voltage 500 kV transmission power line, linking the north of Afghanistan to the south, pass through Bamyan instead of the Salang Pass, as previously decided by the Karzai government in December 2013. They based their demands on statements by Hazara political party leaders in Kabul who referred to a study by a German consulting firm that seemed to favour the Bamyan route. In fact, however, the final decision was always to be taken by the Afghan government.

The first of the renewed protests was organised in January 2016 when the network first learned about the TUTAP line not being routed through Bamyan province. During one of the protests, participants placed a giant alekain, a regionally popular kerosene (hurricane) lamp, on a pedestal in the middle of one of the city’s main squares, an artistic reminder for passers-by of the electricity issue. The alekain had also been chosen as the symbol of the TUTAP protest movement organised from Kabul (see an earlier AAN dispatch here). The protesters vowed to take the memorial down only when Bamyan’s electricity problems had been solved, and various representatives among local authorities and the provincial council, who had initially supported the protests, told AAN they did not mind the lamp staying.

The commission’s recommendations and findings

On 15 May 2016, Ghani established the national commission (known to the public as the TUTAP Commission) for reviewing the power line project; he particularly tasked its members to review the cabinet decision of 30 April 2016 to route the north-south power transmission line through the Salang Pass. Ghani also suspended the ongoing procurement process for the companies that would construct the power line. The establishment of the commission, the day before the large protests in Kabul and Bamyan of 16 May 2016 that had already been announced, was intended to preempt the protests, but they were held anyway.

The latest protest took place on 29 May 2016 in the provincial capital, but only 60 people – mainly women – gathered at ‘lamp square,’ to reiterate their demand that the main TUTAP power line be routed through Bamyan. It was a protest against the TUTAP power line commission’s ruling made in favour of the Salang route five days earlier on 24 May 2016. Many protesters, not aware of the 2013 decision, saw the commission’s decision in favour of the route through the non-Hazara Salang region as discrimination against the Hazara population.

The commission’s report presented a balanced solution meant to calm the ethnic tensions that had flared up in Kabul and the central region. The fact that the body was looking at an already approved and financed project, however, left little room for manoeuvre, as changes would have required relaunching the entire project, with new surveys, environmental studies and project documents, delaying the implementation considerably. (2)

The commission, led by Dr Muhammad Humayun Qayumi (an engineer and professor who currently serves as the president’s chief adviser on infrastructure and technology and is the head of the influential Development Council established by Ghani), originally comprised of 13 members. It initially included six Hazaras of different political backgrounds (some also put the Ismaili leader’s son Mansur Naderi, Minister for Urban Development, in this group which would have given the majority of seven) to give the ethnic group that constituted the bulk of the protesters a significant voice.

The six Hazara members appointed by Ghani were:

  • Ahmad Behzad, MP from Herat, one of the protest leaders and in the group of those 31 MPs currently boycotting parliament (see this AAN analysis);
  • Barna Karimi, a former deputy chief of staff during President Hamed Karzai’s administration, former deputy minister for policy with the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG) and Afghan Ambassador to Canada in 2012 and 2013; in 2015, he was Ghani’s first nominee for the post of Minister of Telecommunications but his nomination was rejected by parliament;
  • Abdul Qayum Sajadi, a Ghazni MP in the Wolesi Jirga, founder of a Kabul-based think-tank, the Afghan Centre for Strategic Studies as well as editor-in-chief of Fajr-e Omid monthly and Guftaman-e Now, an academic quarterly journal;
  • Assadullah Sadati, an MP from Daikundi province and chief editor of Musharekat weekly of Hezb-e Wahdat Islami-ye Mardom led by Khalili; he is also a member of the Enlightening Movement’s leadership council;
  • Ustad Muhammad Akbari, a former mujahedin leader from Bamyan and the founder of Hezb-e-Wahdat-e Melli-ye Islami, MP for Bamyan; (3)
  • Engineer Muhammad Nasir Ahmadi, CEO and founder of the company Omran Holding Group since 2004, a Hazara originally from Uruzgan.

The other members appointed were former jihadi commander and MP from Parwan, Haji Almas Zahed, a Jamiati; the second deputy speaker of the Meshrano Jirga, Hasibullah Kalimzai, a Pashtun from Maidan Wardak province; two current ministers (Sayed Sadat Mansur Naderi, for urban development, son of the Baghlan Ismaili community leader; and Minister of Economy Abdul Sattar Murad, another Jamiati); Deputy Head of the National Security Council, Faizullah Zaki, an Uzbek close to Jombesh leader General Dostum; and finally former finance minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, now Afghan ambassador to Pakistan. It was Zakhilwal who had signed the grant agreement with ADB for the power line project via the Salang route in December 2013 on behalf of the Afghan government (more on this later).

However, from among Ghani’s Hazara appointees, only Karimi accepted. Behzad, Sajadi, Sadati, Akbari and Ahmadi refused to attend the commission’s meetings. Behzad said their movement would continue to protest. Thus, the commission was reshuffled again on 18 May 2016, as published on the official Facebook page of Vice President Danesh’s office. In their places, three other Hazaras or Shia were appointed, bringing the number of commissioners down to 11. The three new ones were:

  • Humayun Rasa, Minister of Trade and Industries, a Bayat, a subgroup of the Hazara;
  • Mahmud Balegh, Minister of Public Works, a Hazara from Daikundi, associated with Khalili and Danesh; and
  • Sayyed Muhammad Hassan Sharifi, a Hazara MP from Sarepul, affiliated with Mohaqqeq.

The commission came to the following decision, in a 12-page report (the full text is available here, in Dari):

In order to protect the important interests of the country, in order to ensure national unity and the stability of Afghanistan, for the sake of preventing ethnic and regional tensions and confrontation due to a fait accompli and the fact that all technical and procurement phases of the 500 KV power transmission project from the north to the south through Salang route have been completed over the last two and half years and considering the findings of the National Commission after reviewing the relevant documents, the procurement phase of the project [via Salang Pass] should be resumed.

The plan to provide electricity to Bamyan province through a 220 KV power transmission line from Poshta-ye-Sorkh [a power sub-station in Jabal-us-Saraj district of Parwan province, built with Indian government support and inaugurated in January 2016] cannot meet the strategic needs to develop a national power network in the country and the Commission recommends that the 220 KV power transmission line project (double circuit) with the capacity to carry 300 megawatts from Doshi [district of Baghlan] to the central region, which has the capability of providing electricity to all central provinces, be implemented


According to the commission, a power distribution grid in Bamyan province should provide electricity to at least 20,000 families by November 2019. The commission also suggested that when “the thermal power station in Eshpushta of Bamyan is constructed, a 500 KV power transmission line from Eshpushta to Arghandi [should] be constructed. The budget for this project should be prepared by the Ministry of Finance and submitted to parliament during the national budget’s 1395 (2016/2017) mid-year review.”

The power line to Bamyan was a compromise to cater to the Bamyanis’ demand for electricity, as well as the related development which they hoped would come with it.

Following the commission’s decision, Ghani issued a decree (available in Dari here and a summary in English here), which reiterates the commission’s wording, although in a different order, putting Bamyan’s future plans first, while the Salang route resumption comes second.

A glimpse into the past: the consultants’ report and the ADB loan

The German consulting company Fichtner, which has a monopoly on energy sector consultancies in Afghanistan (the company is used by the German Development Bank KfW, the Asia Development Bank and USAID), developed the country’s Power Sector Master Plan in May 2013. The 450-page document was in fact a desk study conducted from Fichtner’s home office in Stuttgart (see the letter from Fichtner to DABS dated 1 February 2016, published here by Pajhwok), in which the company discusses the optimum solution for the north-south power connection, which is a part of TUTAP.

In its executive summary, the 2013 desk study’s Master Plan favoured the Bamyan route over the Salang Pass:

For the additional Hindu Kush crossing it is recommended to use the so- called Bamyan route for a new transmission line on 500 kV level. The Bamyan route will avoid the narrow space and difficulties along the Salang Pass, will allow connecting further generation by coal fired power plants along the route and will secure power supply of Kabul and south Afghanistan by using a separate route. (4)

It was not until after May 2013 that Fichtner carried out a field survey in Afghanistan regarding the north-south power line (see this letter from Fichtner to DABS dated 1 February 2016). The results of this walk-through survey combined with satellite imagery showed that the Salang Pass route was feasible, contrary to Fichtner’s findings in the desk review study. Following Fichtner’s field research in 2013, the parties involved, namely DABS, ADB and the Ministry of Energy and Water decided that the Salang Pass corridor would be used to construct the 500kV line between Dasht-e Alwan (near Pul-e Khumri) to Kabul province (Arghandeh, to the west of the capital).

In December 2013, the ADB approved a 99 million US dollars grant to the Afghan government for the construction of the north-south power transmission line from Pul-e Khumri to Kabul. The money came from the US and Japan. The project documentation was finalised and the grant agreement signed on 14 December 2013 by then-Minister of Finance Zakhilwal and the representative of ADB. The publicly available project documentation clearly indicates that the Salang Pass was chosen in 2013. It did not fail to mention the challenges posed by the Salang route, which became part of the Hazara leaders’ arguments in favour of the Bamyan route. (5) However, when the debate about the route re-surfaced in January 2016, none of the political leaders, who outspokenly pointed to discrimination, mentioned the project documentation that had been available online in three languages: Dari, Pashto and English.

This, along with ex-minister Zakhilwal’s involvement, the man who signed the controversial agreement and who was appointed a member of the commission tasked to review the project, became another cause for suspicion among the Hazara leaders. Zakhilwal, however, maintained neutrality by not signing the final report of the TUTAP commission.

During the 2014 election year, the project lay dormant. The following year, however, the procurement process for the company (or companies) that will construct the line began. (The government had already taken a decision, but had not yet issued a contract or made it public, as future developments blocked this process.)

This went smoothly until January 2016 when Second Vice President Muhammad Sarwar Danesh wrote a letter, first to President Ghani and then to the Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) and DABS, to raise his concerns about the routing of the TUTAP via the Salang. The letter came at the moment the procurement documents were sent to the national procurement commission, established by Ghani, for its approval. At this point, the ADB had also signed off on the documents, confirming that procurement was in line with the agreed standards of the grant agreement.

It is unclear why Danesh – who, as acting higher education minister was in the cabinet from 2010 to 2014 – and other Hazara leaders had not come up with these complaints in 2013. More intriguingly, Karim Khalili, then-Vice President of Afghanistan, did not complain in 2013, but he helped mobilise opposition to the TUTAP decision in 2016. The saga culminated in the Great Monday protest that was held on 16 May 2016 and was reported on in detail by AAN.

Fichtner writes a letter

Earlier this year, the German consultants from Fichtner felt compelled – after some Afghan lobbying in Stuttgart, as AAN heard from within the development community – to interfere in the matter, now favouring the Salang route in its 1 February 2016 letter to DABS. Among the reasons given was that the line via Bamyan would cost an additional 35 million US dollars and that the project might be delayed by approximately two years, the time required for designing and tendering the new route, if it was indeed routed through Bamyan. Fichtner also pointed out that the new route might delay the implementation of power purchases and sales related to the electricity agreement with Turkmenistan signed in May 2015. According to this agreement, Turkmenistan would increase the volume of exported electricity to Afghanistan four-fold between 2018 and 2027.

Additionally, Fichtner argued that the provision of power to the southern provinces of Kandahar, Khost and Ghazni (in a parallel project financed by USAID which would link power lines from Kabul to the South) might also be deferred by two to three years.

It also seems that the company did not understand – or ignored –the fragile ethnic balance in the country and had rushed into unnecessarily hasty conclusions on the routing of the power lines, first in its 2013 master plan and then again with the 2016 letter.

Why would one want a high voltage power line?

While the early 2009 Bamyan protests reflected genuine popular demands for electricity in a province where there was no power supply at all at the time, the latest protests, although bigger, have become more politicised and convoluted. It is thus becoming more difficult to differentiate between honest calls for community development and political manipulation.

AAN recently visited Bamyan’s provincial centre to discuss the TUTAP power line with a number of interlocutors: civil society representatives, political party and provincial council representatives, the provincial governor and Bamyan University representatives. This range offered different interpretations of the issue, but more significantly it pointed out the growing polarisation in public opinion regarding the TUTAP power line.

One end of the spectrum, opinions were firm that the TUTAP line through Bamyan was a must, explaining that “originally we wanted electricity, now we want equality.” Many at this end of the spectrum, at least for those communities far from Kabul, saw the “non-transparent” changing of the routes from Bamyan to the Salang as “discrimination” against the Hazara or entire central highlands community. Those who used the former version often referred to “hundreds” of years of discrimination of their particular ethno-religious groups by the (Pashtun-dominated) centre; a trend that, they said, continued under both post-Taleban presidents. Some even used the word “fascist.”

Those who spoke about the highlands community in general included both Hazaras and Tajiks, who dominated Bamyan city up until the mid-1990s. In Bamyan city, inter-ethnic relations are complicated by land conflicts. In the Tajik-majority districts of Kahmard and Saighan, memories of warlord atrocities and the desecration of Sunni mosques from the mid-1990s factional wars are still fresh.

Those at the other end of the spectrum were more moderate and supported the TUTAP commission’s decision. They included members of Mohaqqeq’s wing of Hezb-e Wahdat, who had initially participated in the protests in both Kabul and Bamyan, and of smaller (predominantly) non-Hazara parties in Bamyan, including Jamiat-e Islami, Harakat-e Islami (Anwari) and Ensejam-e Melli led by Karzai ally Sadeq Modaber.

Amin Joya, the Dean of Bamyan University, summarised the issue for AAN with a rhetorical question: “The issues here are mixed up. Is what people need the cables, or do they need the electricity?” He also pointed out the environmental issues related to the TUTAP power line, that had figured in the original 2009 protests, and the industrialisation many hope would come with it. He said: “If Bamyan is to be industrialised, that would be a disaster for the country; five rivers have their sources in these mountains”, pointing out that large mining projects would drain local water resources and possibly pollute the rivers, with effects far beyond Hazarajat.

Zaki, from the local civil society, said that local political parties had joined the electricity protests organised by his network and other groups, not the other way around. He also said that although they were optimistic about the commission’s decision, “we don’t believe in it.”

Muhammad Mahdi, a member of Akbari’s Hezb-e-Wahdat wing from Bamyan said “We want a guarantee that we will get electricity. If they do not start work in one month, we will start demonstrations again.” This sentiment was echoed by local representative of Jamiat-e-Islami. Both Jamiat-e-Islami and Mahdi’s Hezb faction are members of a new Justice Council of Political Parties in Bamyan that stands against what it calls “the almost complete political domination of Khalili’s Hezb-e-Wahdat in the province.”

According to Ghani’s decree, the planning of the power line to Bamyan should start in June 2016. Tahir Zohair, the provincial governor of Bamyan, told AAN that they had not yet received any official paperwork from Kabul, but he was hopeful it would come soon. Others, like Mahdi, have less trust in the government.

Kabul arguments

In the capital, there seems to be a disagreement between the civil society part of Jombesh-e Roshnayi (the Enlightening Movement) and its political party affiliates. The statement of the movement from 27 May 2016 suggests that the movement is losing width. “Those who separated from the ranks of the people in this advocacy and justice-seeking struggle and stood by the government will also be unveiled when necessary”, the statement said, in a not entirely veiled nod at party leader Mohaqqeq and Vice President Danesh, who accepted the TUTAP commission’s ‘anti-Bamyan’ decision. Gul Amir Naimi, representative of Mohaqqeq’s Hezb-e-Wahdat in Bamyan, told AAN that there are now two protest movements on TUTAP in Afghanistan.

The Enlightening Movement’s statement was issued on the day a smaller protest was held in Kabul, on 27 May 2016. Hasht-e-Sobh daily put the number of participants in the gathering in the “hundreds,” while Assadullah Sadati, one of the prospective TUTAP commission members who boycotted it and who participated in the protest gathering, reported “thousands” of participants in a post on his Facebook page. BBC Persian also reported on the gathering but gave no numbers of protesters and added  that despite the new protests by the Enlightening Movement, a number of leaders, including Deputy CEO Mohaqqeq and Vice President Danesh had accepted the government’s decision and called on the protestors to cease and wait for the project to be implemented.

Two days later, on 29 May 2016, the People’s High Council issued another statement. Firstly, it thanked the people of Kabul for participating in the second gathering and called on “the supporters of the Enlightening Movement and all justice-seekers of the country in Kabul and provinces to resort to indefinite civil resistances.” As one possible means of such resistance it mentioned the “refusal to pay the electricity bills to the traitorous Breshna Sherkat.”

This call, in particular, was met with criticism even by some of those otherwise sympathetic with the movement. Social media activists said that over the years, powerful and corrupt government officials had not paid for their electricity, and this call was an (indirect) endorsement of their misdeeds. One said that while certain officials had power (both kinds) and would not be harmed, poor people in Dasht-e Barchi or Khairkhana or Shah Shahid who refused to pay their bills would have their electricity cut off.

Zaki Daryabi, a social media activist who also runs Ettilaat-e Roz (News of the Day) newspaper wrote: “The Enlightening Movement may call on the people to refuse to pay their electricity bill. [But then] the government will ask Breshna to cut off their electricity.”

A lack of transparency and ethnic politics

Deputy Minister for Energy and Water Amanullah Ghaleb warned on 24 May 2016 to 1TV that ethnic aspects should not influence national projects. But the north-south transmission route became an issue of ethnic politics anyway. In the letter Vice President Danesh sent to Ghani in January 2016, he stated in rather moderate words that the central region had frequently demanded justice from the government, as well as more consideration for its general development needs. Mohaqqeq, in a Facebook post on 12 January, upped the ante by saying that what Danesh had mentioned in his letter was the result of “discriminatory tendencies of former [government] officials,” indirectly pointing to people in the Karzai administration. The “discrimination” (tab’iz) word was then picked up by a broad segment of the May 2016 protesters in Kabul and political activists in Bamyan.

This directly relates to memories of the century-long, pre-war history of discrimination against the Hazaras in a Pashtun-dominated state. These memories still make many Hazaras suspicious of any central government, particularly if led by Pashtuns. These feelings were exacerbated by the lack of transparency in parts of the TUTAP decision-making process (putting project documents on the internet does not suffice in the Afghan context), the shifting position of the German consulting firm, the fact that the New Zealand-sponsored solar grid in Bamyan only started functioning in 2014. Add to this, more generally, the lack of performance by the National Unity Government (see latest AAN analysis), particularly in the socio-economic sphere, as well as the continuing government efforts to reconcile with armed insurgents groups that many Hazaras see as an attempt to strengthen the Pashtun part of the Kabul centre, as recently reflected in the initialling of the agreement with Hezb-e Islami (AAN analysis here). Several interlocutors in Bamyan told AAN that, in the past, the province received development aid only because people raised their voices and protested. Ustad Ebtehaj, the professor of Persian literature at the University of Bamyan and a member of Khalili’s faction of Hezb, told AAN: “All the projects that Bamyan has received have been approved because we, the people, created the pressure.”

This atmosphere has turned the TUTAP issue into a fertile playground for manipulation and ethnicisation. Various Hazara political leaders have used it to re-position themselves vis-à-vis the government and the emerging opposition circles. Some protests leaders resorted to the ‘discrimination argument’ and many protesters followed them. This, in turn, created a backlash from within other ethnic groups – there have now also been demonstrations in favour of the Salang route in several Pashtun-majority provinces (see for example here, in Khost) – and has the potential to escalate if not contained.

Speeding up the implementation of the TUTAP-related power-line between Doshi and Bamyan, and other development projects in the Hazarajat and equally deprived areas elsewhere in the country, would be the best way to address these tensions. Not least as the government has repeatedly emphasised, starting from president Ghani’s inaugural speech in 2014, that it favours a “balanced” development of the county.

 

(1) The Socio-Demographic and Economic Survey of Bamyan, that was conducted by the Afghan Central Statistics Organisation in 2011, found that “animal dung was the most common source of energy for cooking in Bamyan, with 45.5 percent of households in this province using it as their fuel for cooking. (
) Straw, shrubs or grass and wood were also commonly used. The former was used by 26.3 percent of households in Bamyan, while wood, by 13.4 percent. Liquefied petroleum gas was used by only 6.4 percent of households, and coal/lignite, by 2.1 percent. The remaining 6.0 percent used other types of fuel such as electricity, kerosene, charcoal, and agricultural crop residue.”

Regarding energy used for heating and lighting the survey found that domestically produced solar power (through individual, small solar panels usually attached to the roof of a household) was most commonly used. “Solar power was the leading source of energy for lighting among households in Bamyan Province. Three in every five households in this province were using solar power for lighting. Electricity was used by 21.0 percent of households, and kerosene lamp by 15.1 percent. The other 2.6 percent used other sources for lighting such as gas lamp and candle. Households that did not use any fuel for lighting made up 0.1 percent,” the survey established.

During recent field research in Bamyan province, AAN observed in the villages and districts close to the provincial centre that the use of domestic solar panels and dried dung ‘cakes’ (so-called chalma) continues to prevail.

(2) The project, called the “Afghanistan: North-South Power Transmission Enhancement Project,” formerly “Power Distribution Project” (for project documentation see here), was approved in 2013. The Salang line is only one of ten projects that will contribute to TUTAP, which is a business cooperation framework and political initiative between Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, rather than simply a power transmission project.

TUTAP, that was agreed by participating countries to the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC), will connect the Uzbek, Tajik, Turkmen, Afghan and Pakistani electricity grids through unification of the Afghan grid. TUTAP is part of the Central Asian South Asian Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM), which includes other power sharing initiatives such as CASA-1000 and the TAPI gas pipeline.

The focus of the CASA-1000 project is on Pakistan. This World Bank supported project consists of an electricity transmission line that will go from a hydroelectric power station in Kyrgyzstan, through Tajikistan and Afghanistan, with the aim of providing Pakistan with electricity. The hydroelectric power station in Kyrgyzstan produces superfluous energy for five months of the year, mainly during the summer, which is when Pakistan suffers from a substantive lack of energy. Initially, CASA 1000 was supposed to provide electricity to Afghanistan as well, but as there is currently a lack of funding to build the necessary substations in Afghanistan, the country will only benefit from charging for the electricity transmission through its territory (in the range of tens of millions of US dollars). Afghanistan will also benefit from selling land for the towers for the CASA-1000 power line, and eventually some benefit may come from employment on the construction sites.

(3) The formerly united, Hazara-dominated Hezb-e Wahdat-e Islami-ye Afghanistan (Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan) has split into various factions, including those of former Vice President Muhammad Karim Khalili, current deputy CEO Muhammad Mohaqqeq and Muhammad Akbari. Khalili’s wing continues to use the original name, while the other groups added mardom (people) or melli (national).

(4) The coal-fired power stations, mentioned in the 2013 Power Sector Master Plan, are linked to other large Afghan projects that have stalled, including the development of the copper mine in Mes-e Ainak in Logar province and of the iron-ore deposits at the Hajigak Pass in Bamyan (see further AAN analyses here, here and here.

(5) For details, see the environmental study available here that includes the flora and fauna, and particularly the avian population along the Salang route, which is a major route of bird migration (here), and its vulnerability to the impact of the planned power lines.

 

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Thematic Category: Economy & Development