PESHAWAR: With the merger of erstwhile FATA with KP, the federal government has announced to allocate Rs.1,200 million for the 10-year development program.

Out of this amount, Rs.110 billion will be spent every year. A meeting of seven departments of KP was held in Peshawar in February for devising plan for spending these funds in tribal districts. During the meeting, every department identified its own development projects. The meeting also decided to include several solar-powered schemes in the development plan. It was decided that 500 new water supply schemes will be completed in tribal districts during the next three years, while 220 existing schemes will be converted to solar energy. The government has also decided to install solar panels in 300 mosques, worship places of minorities, educational institutions, hospitals and other important buildings in tribal districts.

The government says tribal districts lack a proper electricity supply system by WAPDA that is why it is focusing on solar-powered system in these areas. The local people have expressed happiness over installation of solar panels at various places, but some people also have reservations.

Haji Wajid Afridi, a tribal elder from Khyber district, says problems have reduced after conversion of tube wells to solar-powered system. He says partiality is the main problem in implementing development projects in some areas of merged districts.

“Solarisation is a good project which is catering the needs of many people. Most of the newly installed panels are working properly although a few failed to operate. The government must convert all the tube wells to solar-powered system. There are still many wells which have a lot of water, but are not getting the government’s attention due to lack of approach by the area residents,” he told TNN

Inqilab Khan from Parachinar, Kurram said while talking to TNN that solar energy has been provided to government offices which has improved the situation. He says the same system should also be provided to all tube wells.

“Water supply problems in many areas of tribal districts have been resolved with installation of tube wells, but these tube wells cannot be operated properly due to frequent and long power outages and low voltage. Solar panel has been installed in the office of C&W Department and all the office equipment is being operated through it. Conversion of tube wells to solar-powered system will resolve the problem of water shortage to a great extent,” he said.

Asma Bibi, a schoolteacher from Sadda, Kurram, is also happy over installation of solar panels in her area. She says women used to carry water on their heads from far off areas, but now they have water supply connections inside their homes. She further says that children used to attend classes in schools in hot weather as there was no electricity and computer labs were also non-functional. “Conversion of water supply system to solar panels has reduced the difficulties of tribal women. Earlier, women used to bring water on their heads from far off areas and they also had to go to ponds and streams for this purpose, but the water available there was polluted and not fit for consumption. Consumption of polluted water often caused water-borne diseases to women and their children,” she said.

Muhammad Anwar, a social activist from Orakzai, said while talking to TNN that solar panels have greatly benefited the tribal people, particularly the women. He says the government should complete all solar energy projects in tribal districts transparently.

“The projects completed so far have benefited the people of merged districts. Solar panels have addressed the issue of availability of electricity in tube wells and schools. Completion of all solar energy projects on merit will bring a positive change in tribal districts,” he said.

Bashir Ahmed from Bara says Power load-shedding was a big problem in tribal districts after damages caused by militancy and military operations. He says the system of installation of electricity power transformers has come to an end now and it has been replaced by solar panels. He says conversion of tube wells to solar system will resolve water shortage issue.

Shabab Hussain from Kurram says there was severe water shortage in their area due to non-operational tube wells as there was no electricity. “People used to buy water from tankers or carry water on their heads. Now every home has received a water supply connection from tube wells operated through solar system and there is no water shortage issue,” he told TNN.

Malik Najeebur Rehman from Orakzai says not a single project of solar-powered system installation has been carried out in Upper Orakzai. “Our schools and hospitals lack the facility. The government should provide the facility to Upper Orakzai as electricity system has been destroyed and the area direly needs solar panel system,” he said.

Abdul Baqi from Bara says development in any area is linked with steps taken by the government for welfare of the people. He says solar panels must be installed in houses, schools and hospitals. “Weather is hot in Bara and students in schools are facing difficulties due to lack of electricity. Solar fans in schools will be a relief for the students from summer heat,” he said.

Muhammad Imran from Sadda says previously, there was no solar panel system and people were facing a lot of problems due to frequent power outages. “Now solar lights have been installed at homes and also in streets. Installation of solar panel system in schools and mosques will bring development to tribal districts. Solar-powered tube wells are direly needed in all parts of merged districts to ensure clean drinking water supply. Water from tube wells will also be used for irrigation purposes,” he told TNN.