The first light bulb in Bosnia and Herzegovina was turned on in 1890. Yet, 122 years later, Nezir Čelik uses a kerosene lamp to light his home – and not by choice.
When workers were installing the electricity pole in front of his house, Mr. Čelik, dressed in a gray, well kept suit, and looked on as workers in front of his house shovelled gravel and prepared mortar while exchanging jokes.
Slowly, the pole is lifted and put in place, accompanied by the cheers of workers and the growing hum of the machinery.
Despite his calm looks, you can recognize a sort of childlike impatience. Like thousands of displaced persons and refugees trying to return to their homes, until now, Mr. Čelik could only dream about coming back.
“I come here and stay five or ten days, two weeks and I have to go back. There is no place to shower, there is nothing,” says Mr. Čelik.
Electricity is essential to keep and prepare food, he says.
“Today, you can’t live without electricity here.”
Slowly, as the workers install the poles, one by one, the power line is growing. The cables that will connect Mr. Čelik’s village to the power grid – after 20 years, are lined along a five kilometre long path.
The infrastructure destroyed during the war is still a huge problem for people who want to return, and for the country’s renewal and economic development.
For three years, UNDP and local authorities have been working to bring electricity to returnee communities in distant parts of the country. Since 2009, 400 returnee households are now part of the electrical grid, thanks to support from the Government of the Kingdom of Norway, and the BiH Return Fund.
So far, UNDP has reconstructed more than 100 kilometres of power lines, set up 22 power stations and more than 2,000 electricity poles in 18 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There’s still lot to be done. Daily life without electricity is still a reality for more than 2,500 returnee households who came back to their homes more than five years ago.
“I have been submitting applications for something to be done here,” says Mr. Čelik. “Today, here, I have a hope that it will be built, that I will be able to come and be here….“
For many like him, without help from national authorities, the only option is to wait for brighter days.
This is why UNDP in cooperation with Nesta launched the Renewable Energy Challenge.