About the Author: Abigail Sugrue is an officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish of Kabul needed a creative solution. He wanted to build street lamps to light the darkened city, and provide safety and security to residents and visitors. However, with limited power generation and distribution systems, an innovative approach was needed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked closely with the Mayor's office and Sustainable Energy Services Afghanistan (SESA) on a pilot program to use renewable energy to provide street lights to the 6 million people living within the city limits. With over 300 days of sun, Kabul City is an ideal place to explore the usage of the sun to power its streets. These solar street lights will not only provide more security and raise community morale, they will also support economic development by encouraging new nighttime commerce, and increasing civilian movement and emergency response.
The pilot program broke ground on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, in a roadside ceremony in the heart of Kabul, near the Jumhoriat National Specialized Hospital. The ceremony was covered by local media and attended by Mayor Nawandish and Deputy Mayor Abdul Ahad, as well as senior U.S. officials.
"Lighting is essential to improving the quality of life throughout Afghanistan," Mayor Nawandish said. “I'm proud that Kabul is leading the way down the path to renewable energy for our country."
The street lights are expected to be installed and operational by the end of the year and will include 28 stand-alone Solar LED street poles, providing light in one of the most critical commercial corridors.
This project represents a true collaboration among the United States Government, the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Mayor of Kabul City, and the Kabul City Working Group, a cross-cutting advisory panel dedicated to the issues and concern of Kabul. This partnership will continue as further project sites are being identified throughout Kabul.
This posting also appears on USAID's Impact Blog.