Rebuilding Afghanistan with Renewable Energy

Reconstruction program relies on retrofitting villages to rely on alternative energy sources

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Twenty years of conflict have left Afghanistan in rubble, but the rebuilding process offers a nearly unprecedented opportunity to recreate a society along the theme of “small is beautiful.”

At least that's the view of the World Bank, the U.N. Development Program, the Asian Development Bank, and the interim Afghan government, which has outlined a $15 billion reconstruction program that could have been written by E.F. Schumacher (author of the 1973 classic Small Is Beautiful). The plan, unveiled at a January meeting in Tokyo, will employ “community and small-scale private approaches for providing electricity, including village-managed solar and small hydroelectric stations rather than a massive nationwide power project,” reports Fred Pearce in the British science weekly New Scientist (Jan. 26, 2002). The program calls for village-oriented efforts to rebuild roads, water, and sanitation facilities, as well.

The plan has the support of several ministers in the new Afghan government, including transport minister Ishaq Shahryar, a pioneer of solar power development in the United States, where he emigrated 40 years ago, and an advocate of “model villages” as a development tool in his homeland. “Here's a country that is destroyed,” he said. “To go back and rebuild it, my God, what a sense of opportunity.”