Solar Powered Education: Nangahar University Blazes a Trail

Nangarhar University’s streets are safer now thanks to solar lights installed by UNDP. Students and professors living inside the campus can now study and play sport after dark. Photo: UNDP Afghanistan / Farhad Zalmai / 2016.

Jalalabad, 12 August 2016 – Nangarhar University, on the outskirts of Jalalabad, is the second largest University in Afghanistan. Covering a whopping 40 hectares of land and serving 15,000 students, its tree-lined avenues stretch on for miles. But at night, they are pitch black, leaving both students and professors feeling unsafe in the dark. Public spaces are empty and no one spends much time outside.

To change this, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme are lighting the university’s streets with solar power. Eighty lights have already been installed by our local partner, the Rural Energy Research Society (RERS), and another 80 will be up and running by September.

Highlights

  • UNDP is bringing solar power and environmental education to Nangahar University.
  • A total number of 160 solar street lights are being installed.
  • According to NASA, Afghanistan’s 300 days a year of powerful sunlight mean it has the second largest capacity for solar power after South Africa.
  • Over the last three months, 1,700 students have been briefed on solar power and clean energy.

“We didn’t feel safe before, but now we can have classes at night,” said Vice Chancellor, Massood Moahed.

The lights charge up during the day and turn on automatically at night. There is a newly trained maintenance committee to fix anything that goes wrong and nature takes care of the rest.

According to NASA, Afghanistan’s 300 days a year of powerful sunlight mean it has the second largest capacity for solar power after South Africa. But there is little awareness of this cheap, clean resource.

“We experience blackouts for six hours every day,” said Moahed.“Now students can study under the solar lights when the power is out, and I have even seen people playing sports.”

The project also serves the longer-term goal of educating people on the potential of solar power. Increasing awareness and use of renewable energy is critical in a country that struggles to provide power to its citizens and is ranked 22nd globally for vulnerability to climate change.

Over the last three months, 1,700 students have attended workshops and briefings on solar power and RERS has distributed 1,500 booklets on the use of solar technology. Some students have even copied the university’s solar system at home, bringing light to darkened villages.

UNDP and the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme has awarded 46 grants in Afghanistan for projects on biodiversity, climate change mitigation, the prevention of land degradation and sustainable forest management. Of these, 22 completed projects have already improved the environment for nearly 55,000 households around the country.

Other UNDP environment projects are helping people adapt and find jobs in the face of climate change, bringing clean power to rural areas, preparing for natural disasters, establishing and protecting national parks, and conserving biodiversity for future generations.