As the rest of the country is likely to grapple with power outages this summer, Chitral district is striving hard to meet its energy requirements through decentralised and small-scale solutions.
Although it has water aplenty, Chitral faces the same energy problems as other parts of the country. However, the district is expected to have dozens of micro-hydel power stations (MHPS) over the next two years to empower the community both literally and figuratively.
The Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), in collaboration with the European Union, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and K-P government, plan to build around 90 micro hydel power stations across the district. After the SRSP has been shortlisted for the prestigious 2015 Ashden Awards—also known as the ‘green oscar’—for its rural electrification efforts, it seems the project will be in good hands. The AKRSP was given the same award in 2004 for the construction of over 200 micro-hydels.
Short and long term
Work on at least four micro-hydels with the installed capacity of about four megawatts (MW) was initiated by the SRSP over the last two weeks. The AKRSP started construction on one of several MHPS under its control on Wednesday.
Also, work on the 2MW Birmogh power station kicked off on March 18 in Golen Valley. The project worth Rs260 million will supply electricity to Chitral town and its outskirts. Work is also under way on two power stations, producing 700 kilowatts (KW) each, in Ayun and Mastuj, while a 500KW one will be set up in Booni.
SRSP programme manager for Chitral, Tariq Ahmed told The Express Tribune his organisation was carrying out large-scale rural electrification in cooperation with the EU and PPAF at a total cost of Rs800 million.
Tariq said the initial plan was to construct about 44 micro-hydels across the district, ranging from 25KW to 500KW, within a span of four years. However, he said the SRSP later decided to increase the capacity of some of power stations to help solve the energy woes of people in certain areas. The programme manager said the increase in production capacity of each station was likely to reduce the total number of micro-hydels being built. Tariq said five MHPS have been completed so far, while work on 12 others was in progress and would be completed within nine months.
He said his organisation was building 27 MHPS with EU funding, while PPAF was extending finances for another 12. “The installed capacity of these power projects stands at 6.3 MW,” he said.
The senior SRSP official said micro-hydels were built in the past with the sole purpose of providing lighting solutions. In contrast, the current stations will be built with increased capacity to run household appliances and other commercial entities.
He said there was no profit involved in building these stations as the project was a social enterprise. Tariq said these projects have led to the empowerment of local communities as women were setting up handicraft centres thanks to affordable energy.
“These projects may not completely end the district’s power woes, but will help reduce them to a great extent.”
On the other, K-P government has contracted the AKRSP to construct about 55 MHPS over a period of 18 months.
Chitral AKRSP-Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (PEDO) project director for micro hydels, Muhammad Darjat, told The Express Tribune his organisation was in the implementation phase of K-P government-funded stations in Chitral. Darjat said the power stations were in different phases of project cycle, surveys, designs and proposal development.
Darjat said 55 MHPS with an estimated capacity of over 6 MW were being built in over 24 union councils of the district. The project director revealed that these micro-hydels would cost over Rs1 billion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2015.