The largest hydroelectric project in Afghanistan is generating power for the first time in six years, following the restart of one-of-four turbine units at the Naghlu plant this week.
The 100 MW facility was built with assistance from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, but has been non-functional since 2012.
The plant is located on the Kabul River and serves Afghanistan’s Kabul, Kapisa and Nangarhar provinces, which, according to the World Bank, which financed much of the rehabilitation, should see “important social, economic and political” benefits from Naghlu’s return to service.
The World Bank began providing Afghanistan with funds earmarked for refurbishing Naghlu’s electrical and mechanical equipment in 2006, with national utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) coordinating much of the contracting.
DABS has relied on power imports from neighboring countries to meet the bulk of its needs, making Naghlu’s rehabilitation a project of great significance.
“DABS can make tremendous savings by using more of its domestic hydropower, making financial room for more electricity connections in Afghanistan for about 70% of Afghans who do not have access to electricity,” DABS chief executive officer Amanullah Ghalib said. “Naghlu will also make electricity more reliable for those who already have access to the electric grid.”
Using US$83 million in World Bank money earmarked for the Naghlu refurbishment under the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, DABS is now shifting its focus to Turbine Unit No. 3, which it hopes to have operating by October.
The utility has also said improvements to the dam’s safety are an important component of the project as well, with renovations to Naghlu’s infrastructure and reservoir also planned.