The prayers of Kalam’s residents were finally answered after six years when a 400-kilowatt (KW) micro hydro power (MHP) project started generating electricity.
The power project was inaugurated by Malakand Division General Officer Commanding Major General Javed Bukhari on Saturday. Installed by Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) with funding from the European Union on August 29, 2013, the MHP will provide 1,000 lines in the tehsil which will cover the entire area, except Ashuran.
“I hope other organisations will also come forward and, with the support of the provincial and federal governments, tap the rich resources of the land,” said Major General Bukhari, adding that soon the entire tehsil will get electricity from its own water and will not have to rely on Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).
Initially, a 200-KW MHP was established by the Pakhtunkhwa Hydel Development Organisation in 1984 which provided electricity to 500 domestic and commercial lines. In 2008, the project’s equipment was destroyed in militancy-related incidents. Later, its civil structure and transmission were washed away by the 2010 floods.
The MHP project in Kalam, along with the 1.2 MW MHP project in Ashuran, were then handed to SRSP for rebuilding. Since then, residents of Kalam have lived without electricity.
Talking to The Express Tribune, manager of Al-Khalij-al-Kalam Hotel, Mohammad Rom, said they used generators in their hotels which would cost around Rs150,000 every month for fuel. “But with the electricity from the MHP, we will only have to pay Rs30,000 per month.”
Residents of Kalam said they faced numerous problems due to lack of electricity. “Though we have a hospital here, we used to travel five hours to Mingora every time we needed to get any medical tests done because there was no electricity here,” said Maddar Khan, a local.
“At least now we will be able to get our x-rays and tests done from here. It will not only save our time, but money too,” he added.
Locals said in the age of science and technology, their children have been deprived of modern education and computer studies. “The rest of the world has gone beyond desktop computers, but our children do not even know what a computer is,” said another resident, Iqbal Khan, adding that he is hopeful modern technology will now be introduced in the area with the provision of electricity.
Kalam is the centre of tourism in Swat Valley. Both foreign and local tourists visit the tehsil, especially in summer, and stay in one of the more than 500 hotels present.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2014.