By Nazakat Jabeen
Borth is a remote village located in Immit valley, 140 Km from Gilgit. The word “Borth” means Stones in Chitrali (Khowar) language. The village consists of five scattered hamlets making up for a total of 250 households. Being geographically remoteness people are poorly served in terms of education, health and lack other basic amenities. Access to the village is through a gravel path while, high quality facilities are a long way away. The village comprises of poor households as all the inhabitants of the village are mainly reliant on subsistence agriculture farming.
Meanwhile, the village was facing severe electricity cuts lasting up to 48hours. Hence, villagers decided to set up their own power-generating unit by tapping in to the hydro source. The Borth women organization submitted a request to Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) for help in construction of a Hydro power plant in the perennial stream of Borth. After a detailed survey, AKRSP generously extended their financial as well as technical assistance to install a 300KW hydel power plant in the village. AKRSP is the pioneer in providing sustainable energy to the people living in the most remote areas of Pakistan like in GB and KPK through community based renewable energy projects.
The project was started in 2016 and became operational in December, 2017. It has been a month since its inauguration, and it is already bringing positive impacts in lives of villagers. At its current capacity its providing nonstop supply of electricity to 172 households of six villages in Immit valley. However, that is expected to rise up to 300KW during the summers and provide clean electricity to almost 660 households of more than ten villages in the valley.
The project had bought about many positive impacts on the lives of the residents. During its constructions it provided them with improved economic conditions by engaging them on full time jobs. An estimate, the inhabitants made almost 1.5 million PKR income by working as labor in the project and every household has saving now in the banks.
The women expressed their contentment as well. The project that has greatly reduced their household burden by facilitating them to use electric appliances e.g. washing machines, butter churner etc. Now that they spend less time on household chores they can spend the same on productive (Income generating) activities. Overall, the project is also contributing to boost the economic status of women beneficiaries of the area as well.
The project has also opened vast opportunities to develop and establish small enterprises. Communication facilities have also improved ever since. The project will improve the educational prospect as currently, six schools are getting uninterrupted supply of electricity that will benefits both the school going children and teachers.
A resident Rehmat said, “Prior to this project, we used to spend a whole day to fetch fire wood by covering miles of distance on foot and used to consume all the fuel wood in just one day. This project employed me on a daily wage of 1200/ day. Now I have savings in village organization.”
Since electricity is available now through out the day the need for fire wood has greatly reduced. This has a very positive impact on the environment as less trees need to be cut down. Also, the adverse effects form the smoke of burning firewood has reduced significantly as the residents can now use electric heating.
Rashida, a middle-aged house wife was excited, “It is indeed a relief to use electric appliances. Life has become much easier now, I utilize most of my time in sewing and earning a sufficient amount to spend on my children’s education.”
The community of Borth is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the power plant. They plan to collect a regular tariff to ensure the economic sustainability of the project.