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Indian engineers to light up Kabul

The 202-km transmission line being laid by Power Grid will bring 200 MW of electricity from Uzbekistan.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2006 14:13 IST

Engineers from India's Power Grid Corp are engaged these days in scaling the mighty Hindukush mountains of Afghanistan in a bid to bring electricity to power-starved Kabul.

The 202-km transmission line being laid by Power Grid will bring 200 MW of electricity from the Timriz power project in Uzbekistan to the Afghan capital. India has provided $111 million for the project, out of the total $550 million it had committed for reconstruction activities in the war-torn country.

The project involves the construction of 600 high power transmission towers from Pul-e-Khumri, north of Hindukush, to Kabul via the 13,170-feet high Salang Pass.

Indian engineers have completed the most hazardous task of surveying the transmission route passing through the heavily-mined Hindukush ranges on both sides of Salang that had been the site of some of the most fiercely fought battles during the past 30 years.

Their experience of working in similar terrain and conditions while laying transmission lines across the Himalayas between Ladakh and Kargil has come handy while working in Afghanistan.

Both in Ladakh and Afghanistan, the transmission lines have to pass through avalanche and blizzard prone altitudes around 14,000 feet. Hundreds of armoured and artillery pieces and live ammunition littering the hillsides even now bear witness to the era of turmoil.

Lack of oxygen, four to six metres of snow, howling icy winds and temperatures going down to 30 degrees below zero are other hazards that the construction teams are facing in executing the project.

To be completed in 2008, the power line will help surmount the electricity shortage in the Afghan capital. Power availability is restricted to alternate days and that too for four to five hours.

The Taliban destroyed the power lines within the capital; even wire conductors were removed and sold as scrap.

The city has no street lighting, and it seems to have a permanent blackout after 5 pm in winters, driving people into their homes. The freezing of hydel generation reservoirs due to severe cold further aggravates the shortage.

India is also supplying material for a 125-km transmission line from Andhkhoi to Maimana and for three sub-stations and four pole-mounted stations in Faryab province in northern Afghanistan.

Indian engineers have completed a detailed assessment for rehabilitation of Khanabad, Amin Ghazi and Qargha reservoirs and six other mini/micro hydropower projects with an assistance of $4.1 million.