CHITRAL: The residents of different Chitral villages have claimed that mini and micro hydropower projects have brought about positive changes in the education, health and agriculture sectors.
According to them, some non-governmental organisations have put up small hydropower stations in villages during the last two decades with the capacity to generate 25-800 kilowatts.
Shah Nawaz, former social organiser of an NGOs, said the additional electric supply available to the villagers was used for lift irrigation purposes bringing a vast area under cultivation and increasing per acre yield both in Lower and Upper Chitral districts.
He said the availability of water secured by electric powered machines had equally benefited women, who grew vegetables both for household use and to sell on the market, while processing machines for value addition to fruits were introduced recently.
“As power projects are managed by the community, the tariff of electricity is fixed at a rate quite affordable for such use and bearing the power bill is almost not a problem for carpenters,” he said.
The residents of Garam Chashma valley said they had completed a power project two years ago in Mogh with the help of the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and that an extra amount of power was being used productively in education, health, agriculture, services and manufacturing.
The round-the-clock availability of electricity in the town has led the opening of private banks, fixing of ATMs, and establishment of net cafes and photocopier shops.
The Mogh hydropower house also provided electricity to the tehsil headquarters hospital in Garam Chashma ensuring the availability of diagnostic facilities to people round the clock and at cheaper rate.
Medical officer Dr Khalid Bashir said the charges had been reduced by 40-60 per cent after the hospital was electrified by the newly-constructed power station as previously, thermal generators were, too, costlier for patients.
As the Garam Chashma valley is known for potato crop, the availability of surplus amount of cheaper power is bringing more and more area under cultivation. Also, the facility of cold storage for potato seeds has been established.
The cottage industry of Chitrali patti (coarse cloth of sheep wool) has also received a boost in Mogh village as power looms are replacing the manual ones increasing productivity and reducing costs. The residents said as the region was mountainous and mostly covered by snow, families used oak and other trees for heating and cooking purposes.
They, however, said the mini and micro power stations had reduced the use of firewood by providing the people with cheap electricity.