The tiny village of Bava, right in the middle of Iraq’s northern Dohuk province, hasn’t had any electricity supply for years. And little did locals think that the Khabur River, which flows right alongside their homes and which supplies them with water and fish, would ever be the source of power for them. But that is exactly what has happened.
A 40-year-old local, handicapped man, Khaled Hussein, has managed to build a water pressure engine that utilises the river’s flow to generate electricity for the entire village, which – admittedly - is made up of only about eight homes. Still locals say it’s a great example of local ingenuity solving what is a national problem. All the other generators they know of are fuelled by gasoline.
And Hussein’s ingenuity means that unlike in the rest of Iraq, which is plagued by regular power cuts, this relatively remote village has power almost all the time.
“I always wanted to invent an engine that operated without fuel or oil,” Hussein told NIQASH. “I had this idea since I was young and now it’s become a reality.”
Hussein never even finished high school but his hobby involves reading scientific texts. Hussein lost both his legs in 1991 when US planes were bombing northern Iraq during the first Gulf war. “But my disability has never stopped me from dreaming,” Hussein tells NIQASH. “And I’ve succeeded in this project with a little help from my friends.”
One of those friends is another local man, engineer Abdul-Ghafour Bahjat, who helped find all the necessary parts for the home made water pressure engine.
“The engine is seven meters long, four meters wide and about 2.5 meters high,” Bahjat explains.
The water generator is designed to float on the surface of the river and is kept anchored in place by two large concrete walls with heavy ropes attached.
“With the power this engine supplies, the people of the village can run all their electrical appliances - refrigerators, televisions and the like - because we have modified its speed to 1500 rpm to produce 220 volts of electricity,” explains Hassan al-Harawi, of Dohuk’s department or electricity who helped to build the water generator. “And we designed it like a submarine. Part of it is submerged in the water and the upper half floats so that it can benefit from water currents without sinking.”
The whole project cost around US$20,000 and the generator’s makers say it won’t cost anything other than occasional maintenance costs.
Hussein is very enthusiastic about what the success of this water generator means. “It saves on the fuel that we’re burning at power plants right around the country. So we could design even bigger water generators and put them into action elsewhere in Iraq. We have many rivers,” Hussein says, “we just need some government support to implement similar projects elsewhere.”
The director of Dohuk’s electricity department, Safar Tayeb, agrees. “We have the right environment here – we have rivers all over Iraqi Kurdistan. What Khaled Hussein and his group have done is an excellent starting point for future works.”
“As a government department, we totally support these kinds of projects,” Tayeb says. “They serve the public interest and they ease the burden on the government.”
But there is probably nobody who is as happy about Hussein’s water generator than those living in the small village of Bava. Previously they did used to use oil-powered generators to have some electricity in the village but it cost a lot and the generators would only be run a few hours daily, at most.
“Now we have electricity like all the other villages,” says one of the older villagers, a man called Bafi. “We’re really grateful to this invention – it means we can live a modern life.”