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Promoting South-South Cooperation to Bring Energy to Afghanistan's Rural Areas

A microhydropower plant provides electricity to this business owner in Panjshir province. The majority of people in Afghanistan have no access to electricity at all.

Photo by MRRD/Heidi Carruba.


July 2011 Kabul - Nearly 80% of the population in Afghanistan lives in rural areas, with poor road and infrastructure connections to schools, hospitals, and markets. The majority of them have little or no access to electricity. Only 15% of the country is connected to electricity grid, which leaves most of Afghanistan living in darkness.

"Any development has to be driven by the provision of energy," says Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri, the Director-General of India's The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). He should know; India has seen rapid development in recent years and, according to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) , more than 80 million people in India have gained access to electricity in the past 5 years.

Now, Dr. Pachauri and TERI will bring their regional expertise to help build Afghanistan's rural energy initiatives. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently facilitated a landmark agreement between TERI and Afghanistan's Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) to develop capacity, assist in programme design, and provide other institutional support to the country's efforts to provide nationwide electricity to Afghanistan's rural population.

"Much focus [on energy] has been put on this particular field in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in its long-term strategy," says H.E. Jarullah Mansoori, Minister of MRRD. "I am very thankful to Dr. Pachauri for his contribution to raise the capacity of our programme and enhance the use of renewable energy resources in rural areas."

MRRD has already made progress in addressing the country's enormous electricity gap. It recently established a rural energy component as part of UNDP's National Area-Based Development Programme (NABDP), which has brought electricity to over 10,000 homes in rural Afghanistan. To help build this programme and develop MRRD's capacity, UNDP tapped into its regional and global network of experts to find a partner that could provide the right assistance.

With TERI's expertise and support from UNDP, MRRD will expand and strengthen this program to create a new national priority energy program, with a focus on sustainable, renewable energy sources.

"Whatever we do has to be sustainable," says Dr. Pachauri. As the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he and former United States Vice-President Al Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on environmental issues. Dr. Pachauri, therefore, brings unparalleled insight into this area. "It is a matter of great pride for us to partner with [MRRD] in this important initiative."

UNDP brings regional expertise to help tackle Afghanistan's rural energy problems. From left to right: Manoj Basnyat, UNDP Afghanistan Country Director; Zahid Hamdard, Deputy Programme Manager, National Area-Based Development Programme; H.E. Jarullah Mansoori, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development; Dr. Rajendra K Pachauri, Nobel Prize Winner and Director-General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of India.

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