Afghanistan is rapidly becoming an increasingly urbanised nation. Among other factors, this is due to strong population growth and the influx of internally displaced persons and returnees from neighbouring countries. This is particularly true in Kabul, the Afghan capital, which has one of the highest growth rates in the world. As the cities lack appropriate administrative capacities, they are often unable to provide adequate public services and basic infrastructure, in spite of the significant advances that have been made. Also, urban planning is rarely efficient.
As a result, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) position paper called Strengthening Afghan Ownership identifies urban development and municipal infrastructure as a priority area for the German Cooperation with Afghanistan, which currently comprises two programmes: Improving Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management, as well as Expanding the Electricity Supply. One key aspect of this is to improve institutional frameworks in the water and energy sectors. Both programmes also prioritise building technical and organisational capacity to ensure continued operation and maintenance, and thus sustainability of investments. Additional measures are planned in future, both to help improve municipal services and basic infrastructure and to enhance urban governance and municipal planning capacities. The measures are intended to contribute to sustainable development in both, urban and rural areas.
Water is Life
Water is a precious resource in Afghanistan, essential for agricultural production and as drinking water for the population. In spite of this, roughly one quarter of the urban population and most of the rural population in Afghanistan still do not have access to an improved supply of water. Women and children in particular often have to travel great distances to source drinking water for themselves and their families. At the same time, Afghanistan is severely affected by climate change. Consequently, the dwindling water supplies are increasingly under pressure – among other things due to rapid population growth, improper use and extensive farming. In these circumstances, protecting existing water resources is crucial to ensuring a sustainable supply of safe drinking water for the Afghan population. This includes efficient management of existing water resources for agricultural and industrial purposes.
As part of technical cooperation initiatives, the Water Sector Improvement Programme (WSIP) strives to strengthen the institutional framework in selected key ministries as well as the technical and economic capacities of the water authorities. Among other areas, the programme helps Afghan partners improve technical aspects of training for installation and maintenance staff. It also supports the Afghan government in establishing an efficient river basin and water resource management system. Complementing this, financial cooperation aims to improve the water supply systems in Kabul and other regional centres, and is piloting wastewater management measures. The German government is also providing support for the development of a master plan for decentralised wastewater management in the capital, Kabul.
Energy – the Key to Development
A reliable power supply is the foundation of economic growth, adequate medical care and education; in short: it is the cornerstone of sustainable development. However, the power supply in Afghanistan – especially in rural areas – is often unreliable or absent entirely. High prices, power failures, pollutant-based power sources and inadequate infrastructure prevent power supply sustainability. Companies cannot produce adequately under these circumstances, and the country therefore cannot achieve the economic growth it so desperately needs. That is why the German government has been supporting Afghan measures to develop a sustainable power supply since 2003.
Currently, only roughly one third of the population has access to mains electricity – predominately in urban areas. Due to capacity shortfalls and a sharp increase in demand, Afghanistan is forced to import roughly 75 per cent of its energy under conditions of significant political uncertainty, rendering it dependent on its neighbours. To change this, the German government is assisting Afghanistan both in expanding national electricity generation capacities and its own electricity grid. This work focuses on promoting a green electricity supply for urban and rural areas, sustainably improving living conditions and the potential for economic growth. Therefore, financial cooperation promotes renewable energy generation, grid expansion and installation of domestic connections. To supplement this, technical cooperation in the programme on Expanding the Electricity Supply aims to bolster the capacities of public institutions and the national power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS). Standards and rules for generation of renewable energy, private sector participation, education and training are also to be established in order to ensure sustainable power plant operation and maintenance, as well as promoting investment.
For further information on our work in Urban Development and Municipal Infrastructure, see the project descriptions and the ‘Stories’.