Pouring onto streets to study under solar lights

FEROZKOH (Pajhwok): In the dead of night, students in Ferozkoh -- the capital of Ghor province -- pour onto the streets to make use of solar lights for homework and exercise.  They make use of the lights available and enjoy the still of the night.
Despite three major rivers -- Farahrod, Harirod and Murghab -- flowing through Ferozkoh, the city of almost 20,000 people remains deprived of the basic facility called electricity.
A diesel-powered generator produces electricity for 25 percent of the population from 7:30pm for three hours, but the tariff is prohibitively high: 35 afghanis per kilowatt for residents and 60 afghanis for offices and businesses.
Ferozkoh has only 12 asphalted roads and in recent years fourkilometres have been equipped with over 100 power pylons.After 10pm when the businesses close, city streets become vibrant, with students coming out of homes along with their books and studying together in groups.
The city is relatively safer, where they can stay as long for their studies as they like. Others, however, go for a walk, brief discussions and an exchange of ideasin the apparently secure environment. Some go for workouts.
Some of these students say despite spending much of their time outside until late at night, they feel safe and secure.Ehsanullah, a 10th class student at the Allauddin Ghori High School, told Pajhwok Afghan News after 10pm when the generator goes off they have no choice but to come out for studying on streets.
“When electricity is available at night, we only have dinner and chat with family members. But when the light goes off, we come out and sit under solar pylons,” he said, adding their studies go on till 2-3am. There are no security concerns; only sounds of vehicles and motorcycles break the area’s silence intermittently. “It would have been much better if we had electricity at home.”
Abdul Rahman, another student, usually studies on these streets till midnight because there is no electricity in his hostel.“I have a lot of wishes for my country. I just want to have a good education and serve my people.”
Abdullah, an official at the police headquarter, asked them to remain calm and not to worry, as security forces were fully alert. “In a setting free of worries, theystudy late at the night and well into early morning at times,” the official said, adding Ghor student secured high marks in university tests.
Abdul Qasim, a 12thgrader from the Sultan Allauddin Ghori high school, got the highest marks in the university entry test in 2012. With 333 marks to his credit, Qasim chose to study at the Economic Faculty of Herat University.
The youth also complainof a lack of playgrounds in the province, saying they played football on asphalted roads at night. Mahmood, 17, works in daytime and playssoccer with his colleagues under the lights on asphalted roads in Ferozkoh. There is a stadium in the city but without lights.
Energy and Water Department officials acknowledge frequent and long spells of outages in the provincial capital. Because of funds paucity, they have been unable to introduce a proper system of electricity supply.
Eng. Mohammad Yasin, the water and energy director, explains 25 percent of residents were provided electricity from 7:30pm to 1:30am,while the remaining 75 percent are still yearning for the elemental facility.
He estimates electricity supply to the entire city will cost 170 million afghanis. The prices of one unit of electricity has gone up significantly, with the authorities exercising the option of reducing power supply durations.
On the other hand, Irrigation Director Mohammad Amin says feasibility of the Band-i-Aab dam has begun and its construction will take five years. The dam would cost $16 million to be provided from the national budget. It has the capacity to produce 4.5 MGW electricity, meeting the city’s demand.
Mohammad Zarif, who lives in the northern part of Ferozkoh, uses a small generator that consumes three litres of petrol each night. Each litre of petrol costs him 50 afghanis, an uneconomicaloption.“Regrettably, we are still deprived of electricitydespite the Harirod River passing through our city. People will have easy access to electricity if a power turbine is installed on the river,” he remarked.
Another resident, Akhtar Mohammad, has replaced his fuel lighting systemwith battery-powered lights.“Our children go early to bed because of lack of electricity.” Ghor is one of remote provinces of the country and the government has paid little attention to its development.
Civil society activist Nabi Saqi grumbles even a single infrastructuredevelopment project has not been implemented in Ghor. Electricity,a basic necessity of life, is not yet available to the people. He recalls former president Hamid Karzai had promised to reconstruct the Ghor dam, but the promise is yet to be honoured.
When the generator providing power to the area stops working, the city plunges darkness. Ironically. The blackout lasts as long as a month, according to the man.About a year ago, hundreds of people assembled at the riverside, carrying lanterns and candles. The protestors urged the government to construct the power dam.

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