Walking on Water

Article by:  Stingingnettle

 

What does it take to install Pakistan's first Vertical Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT)? The answer is really simple; a very stubborn, seventy-eight-year-old retired surgeon. I have known him for many years; he is quite simply a man consumed by the raging desire to educate, improve and to make people think. A highly accomplished cleft palate surgeon who trained surgeons all over the world; a man whose anger can have an incandescent quality to it, a man who humorously likes to describe himself as a highly diplomatic benevolent dictator on a mission to ameliorate lives. I do not think I can ever call him politically correct but I do not think I have ever known a person so forthright, outspoken and so utterly driven to bring about change. At 78, he walks the hills and mountains of KPK inspecting sites for his projects – installation of VAWT is just one small accomplishment in a long list of things this incredible man has been doing over the years.

He lives in America but his heart beats in Pakistan; he has been coming home regularly – never empty handed, raising funds in America for his projects in KPK and other parts of Pakistan. A meticulous planner with an unshakable belief in reading and learning; he can talk to you about poetry, agriculture, trees, equestrianism, animal husbandry, ecosystems, water conservations, green energy, politics, history (both western and eastern), philosophy, theology, physics and much more. He was born in KPK so he knows the people and the land like the back of his hand – this is the advantage that allows him to push boundaries and to show people what hope looks like.

 

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Rif Hussain showing some bewildered locals a proper front foot defensive shot

 On this year's visit he brought with him many projects as usual; planting olive trees and grasses, small rock and earthen dams, donating sheep to people, water wells and of course the craziest of all ideas, to install two VAWTs in KPK. His approach is very much hands on – he likes control and efficiency; he has to personally visit every site; this means walking and climbing hills and mountains almost every day – never taking days off to rest, constantly planning, thinking and building. Even when his knee flared up with pain, he refused to stop; on his mind was his VAWT. He had ordered the equipment from China; it was shipped to Karachi where is proved impossible to have it released from customs without paying a $1700 in bribe. This was like dangling a red rag in front of a bull but he swallowed it because he wanted his project to go ahead without delays. He wrote, 'in my view all this is a brake on the possible progress of the country, it is like a cancer from which escape is not possible.'

The biggest challenge faced by people like him is perhaps not so much getting money together to build projects or technical knowhow but simply the corruption that slushes around everywhere in Pakistan. There is a constant demand of bribes and at times from people he is trying to help! He told me about a visit to an area where he spoke to the local tribe about planting 1000 olive trees and building a dam for rain water conservation; quite unbelievably, they demanded money (bribe) to let him plant trees and build a dam at no cost to them! A journalist showed interest in his work but then demanded money from him – so the surgeon, true to his character, told him to go to very hot place. His work, often hindered by 'broken stones' (local blood feuds) – people unable to understand what he is trying to achieve. In his own words, 'drilling a well here is not simply to pay someone and he will do everything - to buy quality products, I have to do everything myself. This takes time and tires me out as everyone is trying to shaft you and I am not a wheeler dealer by nature – so it stresses me out a bit and being 78 years old does not help.' Clearly it is not easy to bring relief to people who need it but do not quite understand the long-term benefits.

He believes strongly that our biggest problems in the very near future are going to be water shortages, energy shortfalls and unsustainable agriculture and deforestation. No one seems to be listening and no one in power has paid any attention to what this surgeon has to say. No one in the Pakistan's media has picked up on the absolutely stunning work this man does every year – rather on talk shows every evening, channels give air-time to those whose only accomplishment seems to be lying and defending the indefensible in the name of party politics.

Once the turbines arrived; work began in earnest – in very wet, cold and inclement weather conditions. All the equipment had to be hauled 460m feet up on a goat track to the installation site; a feat in itself. Raising the 230kg main generator unit to top of the two metre tall tower without any lifting equipment posed a considerable challenge.

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The lad with 'nerves of steel'

It was through remarkable ingenuity, the unit was raised and fixed, and then came the rather precarious business of attaching the wings (blades) to the turning axis on a very windy day! A young lad, with 'nerves of steel' was sent up to attach the wings – to his side was a sheer fall of over 600m! Pakistan's first Vertical Axis Wind Turbine was installed and all it needed was the cables to be connected – that was going to done the following day.

People from around the area had gathered to see this weird contraption which is supposed convert wind energy into electrical power. Once all the cable connections were made and the wings (blades released from their harness) - as if by magic, it came to life. Everyone gazed at the control panel in excitement – and there it was, the panel showing that electricity was being produced!

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The moment of truth 

The turbine was rated at 48V but the voltmeter was reading 51V; could it be that the biting strong winds were in fact a blessing in disguise?

He taught himself Maths and Physics, he travelled all the way from America, went through tens of trials and tribulations but in the end he achieved his impossible goal. So what did the surgeon, known to the locals as Levaneh Mullah, say after installing the first ever VAWT in Malagoree hills?  "I felt like I could walk on water!"

 

Next:  Dam Water

 

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Pakistan's first VAWT 

 

 

 

 

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Climate change is affecting people's lives all over the world.  If you would like to see how a 79 year-old retired South Dakota surgeon, Dr. Rifat Hussain, is helping to bring fresh, clean water to the tens of thousands of villagers in his native Pakistan click on the images above.

Dr. Hussain is available to speak about his project to your organization, club or group.

Contact him at:  

  Phone/Text: 
  605/231-2511