By Air Force 1st Lt. Amber Balken
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 4, 2008 - The provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Zabul province has finished installing 90 solar lights to benefit commerce and improve security in the province. The lighting problem originally was identified in Shajoy city, where citizens wanted to illuminate their bazaar, the largest in Zabul.
Conducting business after sunset was difficult because of the lack of lighting and the security risk of conducting business after dark. In addition to extending time available for commerce, the lights now allow Afghan national security forces to conduct patrols safely.
"We work very hard at developing and maintaining strong relationships with the local community and local leaders," Army Maj. Gregory Ulma, Zabul PRT civil affairs team leader, said. "The community is hungry for development. Already we have noticed an uptick in commerce, and commerce is a sign of increased stability."
The PRT chose solar lights over electric lights due to the lack of electricity in Shajoy, Ulma said. Solar lights require less maintenance, and they can work for up to three days without sun.
The PRT installed 50 more lights in the cities of Qalat and Shar-e Safi.
"The success of this project is overwhelming," Army Master Sgt. Tommy Phillips, Zabul PRT engineer, said. "We were able to provide the people of the communities with a much-needed service, and increase security as well."
(Air Force 1st Lt. Amber Balken serves with the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team.)