End to Timaru man's passport drama
Afghan police will return Timaru man Tony Woods's passport as a dispute over an unfinished hydro project has been resolved.
Mr Woods, who is based in Bamiyan, said he was forced into a situation where he volunteered to hand over his passport after a renewable energy hydro project undertaken by Timaru based Sustainable Energy Services Afghanistan (SESA) ran into serious problems.
However, police today have informed him his passport will be returned.
The project, started in 2011 in remote Shah Delir village in the Parwan district, ran into problems when Afghan engineers employed by the company were threatened. They feared kidnap or murder by gunmen, possibly Taliban or bandits.
Mr Wood said work was going well until local tensions erupted "very close to the end of construction, and fighting started".
"We kept a low profile and stayed out of trouble, but three other contractors, including one American, came to work on the site and all were murdered enroute."
The men were ambushed on return from their first inspection of the project.
As a result, the American State Department cancelled the project and forbid contractors to return to the site.
"Knowing how important the project was to the village, we promised to return once the fighting slowed down,'' Mr Wood said. "This unfortunately took more than a year, and the village lost patience and decided the best way to get our staff to return was to have the police send me to the village to answer questions."
Because this was too dangerous, Mr Wood did not go.
When Mr Wood returned to Afghanistan after a recent trip home, the police met him at his house.
"The village told the police they wanted $100,000 or they would take me back to Parwan. I suggested a third option which was to give my passport to the police as a bond. They agreed, and all was fine."
He said when the Americans pulled out of Afghanistan, they also pulled out the technical support that was intended to help SESA install the Chinese turbine - the installation manual for which was in Chinese.
He said with shooting stopped, his staff went back to the site last week, and with the help of Chinese technicians via satellite Skype, the turbine installation was finalised.
"It is now running perfectly and providing power to the community. I actually think that this is a story of success over the odds in a very, very difficult environment. I have nothing but respect for the courage and perseverance of my engineering staff."
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