KABUL, Afghanistan â Kabul Mayor Muhammad Yunus Nawandish, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberryâs wife Ching Eikenberry, U.S. Army Col. Thomas Magness and other Afghan and U.S. officials flipped a switch at sunset to light up solar-powered streetlights on one of Kabulâs most important commercial corridors on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
The streetlight project is part of Nawandishâs âOpen Kabulâs Streets to the Nightâ initiative. The goal is to boost economic development in downtown Kabul by creating a safer environment for nighttime commerce.
âA solar-light system like this is very important to light the streets,â the mayor said through an interpreter during a press conference under one of the streetlights near Jumhoriat National Specialized Hospital. âIt is very important for peopleâs lives. The lights make security, the economy, everything much better,â he said.
Nawandish thanked the United States and the international community for helping to improve the quality of life in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan. The first 28 streetlights illuminate a nearly 1-kilometer stretch of Jumhoriat Road, which the officials noted is just the first phase of a larger project.
They announced that they are in the planning stages of expanding the program with streetlights along 4.4 kilometers of roads in two more phases in 2012. The proposed routes, distances, costs and schedule:
Phase 1 â Jumhoriat Road, from Jumhoriat National Specialized Hospital to Sherpoor traffic circle, 0.88 kilometers, completed.
Phase 2 â Foreign Affairs Road, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, connecting to Wazir Akbar Khan Road, past Wazir Akbar Khan Mosque, to Indira Gandhi Childrenâs Hospital, 2.05 kilometers, expected to be complete in 2012.
Phase 3 â Wazir Akbar Khan Road, from Indira Gandhi Childrenâs Hospital past Massoud and Shahid Abdul Haq traffic circles, to a point near Kabul Stadium, 2.35 kilometers, expected to be complete in 2012.
The first phase proved that solar-powered lights are a viable option for Kabul, a city that has an inadequate electric grid, said Magness, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineersâ district in northern Afghanistan.
Much of the capitol city is dark at night following three decades of war that have crippled the cityâs electrical grid. Each of the streetlights will generate its own power without drawing from Kabulâs overall power supply.
âWeâre confident that weâve identified a way ahead,â Magness said. âWhen you hear about the mayorâs vision of lighting up the city at night, you realize that renewable energy and this sustainable little effort here could amount to a lot.â
Ching Eikenberry, who is a member of a Kabul planning committee headed by the U.S. Agency for International Development, congratulated the mayor and members of his staff for working with the international community to develop the idea. âI am very, very grateful that I have this opportunity to witness the brightening of the city with my Afghan brothers and sisters,â she said.
Kevin Brownawell, the deputy mission director for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the United States is committed to working with Nawandish to improve services for Kabul residents.
May 1, 2014