By Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 28, 2009 - A busy marketplace is a common sight in the city of Nangalam during the day, but as night falls, the lack of electricity turns the bustling Konar province commercial center into a ghost town. "By 6 p.m. all the shops would close and people would head back home, that way they wouldn't be frightened by the [anti-Afghanistan forces], or injured when they were walking down a dark street," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Campos of the 416th Civil Affairs Battalion, based in San Diego, Calif.
In order to increase security and commerce, Campos and his team of fellow 416th soldiers from the recently began the installation of 25 solar lights in the city's marketplace.
According to Campos, the team started with two solar lights on April 20 in order to gauge the citizens' reactions. They responded so positively to the project that within a week, 20 lights were installed by local contractors, with five more to arrive soon.
"[Many] thought the idea of lights at night to be something that was only imaginable in their lifetime," said Campos.
With the shops open and security improved, the flourishing city that has seen its population double in recent years is expected to grow even more.
"We're looking at possibly 10 to 15 percent increase in shops opening, and up to 35 percent more commerce and economic growth within the next year," said Campos. "The lights are working."
The Civil Affairs team already has plans to expand on the project, with 25 additional solar lights to be installed around the city's outlying areas. By next year the team also hopes to finish its largest project, two micro-hydro power plants that will provide electricity to every home in Nangalam, and its nearby villages.
(Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller is assigned to the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)