Living by candlelight
People in three Azerbaijani villages continue to live without electricity, with some 900,000 USD allocated to supply the villages with electricity
The last time people in the Azerbaijani village of Sekashan had electricity was in 1994. Back then, the old transformer stopped working but a new one was not installed. The electrical company promised to fix it, but it eventually continued to lie on the ground at the entrance to the village. A local resident, Nasiba Shahmuradova, says that her son, now 21, grew up without electricity.
The village is located among mountains in southeast Azerbaijan. Local residents say that the village had once been large and about 80 families lived in it. After the electricity supply ceased, almost all local residents left Sekashan. Four families live in it now. "Anyone who had an opportunity to relocate did. Many settled in neighboring villages, closer to the district center. We could not afford to relocate," Nasiba Shahmuradova says, "that is why we stayed here".
Hardships of everyday life without electricity
"You buy five kilograms of meat, you cook it, eat it, store it for one day, and the next day you have to toss it. This puts a big strain on our financial resources," says Afgan Aliyev, a resident of the village of Sekashan, who has three daughters. His two elder daughters already go to school. There is not even an elementary school in Sekashan, so reason local school-age children go to a neighboring village that is about three kilometers away. They have to do their homework before it gets dark. Local people charge their mobile phones at their friends' homes in neighboring villages that are supplied with electricity.
Nasiba Shahmuradova has seven children, and only two of them have seen lights on in their home. She gave birth to the other five and raised them after electricity supply to the village ceased. "I had to use candles when I got up at night to check on my sick children and give them medication," Nasiba says.
A lemon is not a lemon without electricity
Astara District, to which the village of Sekashan belongs, is located at the northern border of the subtropics and is known for its citrus plants. In his garden, Afgan grows lemons, oranges and tangerines. Citruses grown in this area are in great demand across the country and are considered to be highest quality. Therefore, Afgan does not grow them for his own family alone but he also sells them. The harvest from Afgan's own garden is, perhaps his only source of income. But the lack of electricity does not let him develop the garden either, especially in dry summers, such as this year.
"I need 400 to 500 liters of water a month for irrigation purposes. If there were electricity, I would dig a well and use an electrical pump to water the trees. When there is a lot of water, the harvest is good and the fruits large," Afgan says.
Let there be light
On the 2017 list of oil-producing countries published by OPEC, Azerbaijan ranks 21st (769,800 barrels per day) among 50 countries in terms of oil production. According to official statistics, Azerbaijan generated 2.14 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in August 2019, of which 166.3m kilowatt-hours it exported to neighboring countries, including Georgia.
However, Sekashan is not the only village that is not supplied with electricity. People in more than 60 villages of the country live without electricity. There are a total of five such villages in Astara District.
In April 2019, it was decided to connect three of them to the electrical grid. Following a presidential decree to this effect, the government allocated 1.5m AZN (883,000 USD) to this end. Work to implement the decree started in May. A new transformer and light poles was installed in place of the old one, but that's where the work came to a standstill. Local residents had little time to be happy that they would soon have electricity in their village. They are now complaining that the work is proceeding slowly.
"They have not worked for 20 days now. They worked for three or four days, then had a week's rest, then it rained for a week and the work stopped, and now it has started raining, and they are saying that they cannot come by car. What didn’t they do in the summer? They could have completed all the work in the summer when it was dry, couldn't they have?" Afgan Aliyev complains.
Lack of electricity is not the only problem in the village. The village has not been connected to the gas grid, and people bring water from the river. Therefore, it was with extreme happiness that local residents heard the news about resumption of electricity supply after 25 years. If there is electricity, it will be warmer in the house and food can be stored for longer, and trees can be watered, local residents say.
The Azerishig electricity distribution company has said that 15 people have been made available for a quick completion of the work in three villages in Astara District. The challenge is that the villages are located on a difficult terrain - in a forest, among mountain rivers and rocks. It is difficult to use machinery there and, therefore, manual work has to be used. However, the company said, almost 90 per cent of the work has been completed in the village of Sekashan, and less so in the others. Electrical workers promise to complete the work to provide the village of Sekashan with electricity in two months.
Afgan says that not only them but also people living in the upper villages, in which there has never been electricity, are looking forward to electricity being supplied to Sekashan. "They are prepared to move to Sekashan to live in it. Everything will be different in our village when electricity is supplied to it," Afgan believes.
With the support of Mediaset
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