Officials from Mazar-e-Sharif Municipality said on Thursday that preparations are underway for the upcoming Nowruz festival, which marks the start of the new Persian Solar Year.
The main Nowruz festival in Afghanistan is traditionally held around March 21 in Mazar in northern Balkh province.
“We are completely prepared,” said Mawlavi Mohammad Nasim Abid, deputy head of Mazar Municipality.
He said the city is currently being cleaned up and that the municipality “ensures our people that we made preparations and there are no problems regarding security.”
Afghans have meanwhile called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to allow Nowruz celebrations to go ahead.
We “urge the government of Islamic Emirate to mark the Nowruz festival as it was marked in the past years,” said Mohammad Asif, a resident of Mazar.
IEA officials meanwhile said that there are two Eids for Muslims, and that Nowruz celebrations are not necessary.
“Our leaders have not talked about the Nowruz celebration so far. Preparation for this big festival is too soon,” said Balil Karimi, deputy spokesman of IEA.
Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) in coordination with Mazar Municipality has meanwhile stepped in again this year to help prepare the city for Nowruz.
The company has helped clean up the Hazrat Ali Shrine in Mazar.
“We work for the city’s greenery every year, and clean corners of Rawza-e-Mubarak. Our preparations are completed,” said Yafiz Saqat, a representative of AWCC in Balkh.
Balkh residents call on IEA to mark Nowruz festival
Residents of Balkh province on Thursday called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to maintain the tradition of celebrating the new solar year as has been done for years.
Residents said that Nowruz celebrations are a tradition for Afghans and should be celebrated peacefully across Afghanistan.
“The festival was celebrated every year, it should also be celebrated this year. Our grandparents celebrated it every year. I call on Islamic Emirate to celebrate the festival,” said Mohammad Mustafa, a resident of Balkh.
“We call on Islamic Emirate to celebrate the new year. Visitors come from far to participate in the Nowruz festival,” said Mohammad Karim, another resident of Balkh.
Mazar-e-Sharif municipality, however, said that they have made preparations for Nowruz which is on March 21.
“People come for tourism here, it is a green city. No problems will exist, but it will be different,” said Qudratullah Tariq, Mazar-e-Sharif’s mayor.
Cultural experts also called for Nowruz celebrations to go ahead.
However, with only four days to go to Nowruz, few preparations have been made to usher in the new year.
ADB approves APPC’s loan to enhance Afghanistan’s energy security
On 17 June, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Afghan Power Plant Company Limited (APPC) signed a $10 million loan, ADB said in a statement.
According to ADB, this loan is part of a financing package for the Mazar gas-fired power plant, supporting Afghanistan’s efforts to achieve long-term energy security through affordable domestic power sources.
The project is the first private sector gas-fired plant in Afghanistan to be funded by development finance institutions, says ADB.
#ADBNEWS: The project, the first of its kind in Afghanistan to be funded by development institutions, represents a significant engagement by ADB to support essential infrastructure through private sector in a fragile & conflict-affected situation.
— Asian Development Bank (@ADB_HQ) June 18, 2020
ADB says that in line with its long-term corporate strategy, Strategy 2030, the bank supports essential infrastructure through the private sector in a fragile and conflict-affected situation.
“ADB will also administer a $10 million loan for the project provided by Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP),” the statement adds.
The ABD says that the loan provides long-term financing to build and operate a 58.56-megawatt gas-fired power plant located near Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
“The project cost a total of $89 million, will use indigenous gas and is expected to generate 404 gigawatt-hours of power annually,” the statement writes.
Director of Infrastructure Finance Chakraborty, said, “This project is definitive proof that indigenous gas-based power generation is capable of displacing electricity imports in Afghanistan and helping to deliver energy security.”
He added, “Its success will send an important signal to the market that Afghanistan’s power industry is now ready to attract more private sector investment and financing.”
APPC Chairman Ismail Ghazanfar said, “This is the first step in Ghazanfar Group’s vision of helping to develop 5,000 megawatts of energy generation facilities in Afghanistan through partnerships with international development banks, local and international companies, and the Government of Afghanistan.”
It is worth mentioning that Afghanistan imports at least 75% of its energy needs.
At least 1,000 pigeons die of starvation – Balkh
Restrictions on movements and the ban on pilgrims entering Rawza have led to a shortage of food for pigeons, which have so far killed some 1,000 of them due to starvation.
The Coronavirus has not only challenged human life but has also threatened the life of pigeons in Rawza-e Mubarak – the shrine of Ali – in Mazar which due to the restrictions face lack of food.
Reportedly, nearly 1,000 pigeons have died of starvation so far, according to officials.
They emphasize that if the government does not help provide the pigeons with food, a large number of birds may vanish.
The pigeons – widely known as ‘the white doves’ that spreads the feeling of freedom – are the birds that in the sky of Mazar-e-Sharif catch the eyes of all the spectators and fly around the blue dome of the shrine of Ali.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, thousands of people used to visit the shrine every day and, see the pigeons and would sprinkle them with seeds, the bird food.
For three months now, due to the spread of the Coronavirus, pilgrims have been barred from entering the holy spot. Thus, the white doves, who have become accustomed to the people, have faced a shortage of seeds – a serious threat to their survival.
A number of residents of Mazar-e-Sharif, who have been throwing three bags of wheat and corn to pigeons each day since the beginning of the pandemic and curfews, say that the situation will get worse if the government and relevant bodies do not help.
The exact number of pigeons is unknown, but officials say that there are more than 10,000 of them.
These birds, which were never far from human love and pilgrims’ special attention, feel alone now and their survival depends on human help.
Officials at the shrine say that they have shared the problem with the local government and the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs, but they have not yet addressed the problem.
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