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Kajaki dam: Contentious, costly, and a failure

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The Guardian (UK)
September 4, 2008

The Kajaki dam is a monument to failed foreign dreams in Afghanistan. It was built by the Americans in the early 1950s as a cold war showcase, the sort of mega-scheme that was supposed to modernise the developing world.

But the project was contentious and costly long before the battles of the last few years between the Taliban and western forces, which saw the US bomb the site in 2002 before attempting to begin reconstruction in 2004.

Helmand’s water has always been traded between the great powers of the day. In the 1930s Germany and Japan intended to divert part of the great Helmand river which flows into the deserts of Iran and never reaches the sea. But cutting off part of Iran’s water supply, as the Taliban did briefly by shutting the dam, is controversial, and has had an environmental impact on the remarkable Sistan basin, an area of desert wetland.

After the second world war, the US government moved in, funding the Helmand project through a company based in San Francisco which insisted every part be shipped halfway round the world from the US. By 1950 the UN was warning that the scheme was too expensive and would fail. But America persisted, establishing the Helmand Valley authority, modelled on the famous Tennessee Valley authority of Roosevelt’s 1930s New Deal.

Two dams were built, including the Kajaki. But they were never completed to the intended height, lacked power equipment and – most importantly – failed to bring about the planned green revolution. Only a third of the projected land was irrigated, and even that turned salty, so crops failed.

Over two decades, the Helmand project consumed 20% of Afghanistan’s national budget, as well as much US aid money. Cold war competition with the Soviet Union – which eventually took over part of the Kajaki project – saw the US fund the installation of two power turbines in the 1970s, and make space for a third.

The gap is supposed to be filled by the Chinese-made turbine eventually trucked in this week, guarded by 4,000 troops. But even that can only reach its full potential if power lines are built to the city of Kandahar, 60 miles away. That will take time, and they will be vulnerable to Taliban attacks.

Meanwhile, one of the old US turbines produces power. The other is in pieces, awaiting a refurbishment that began in 2004 but has been made impossible by insecurity.

British forces have fought, on and off, for several years to secure the site and to allow construction of the road that can send heavy equipment up the Helmand valley. If the scheme is ever completed – and the level of the dam raised to the capacity planned in the 1950s – the Kajaki will provide power and perhaps some peace to southern Afghanistan. But its planned output of 51 megawatts is small, perhaps 6% of the country’s power needs.


Written by afghandevnews

September 4, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Flood abatement efforts yield mixed results

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KABUL, 2 September 2008 (IRIN) – Government efforts to reduce flood risks and damage in vulnerable communities have yielded mixed results.

Flash floods killed about 400 people and destroyed hundreds of houses in different parts of the country in 2007, according to the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA).

In a bid to reduce the risks of seasonal floods in 2008, the Afghan government has spent about US$1.5million on thousands of gabion boxes.

Gabions are large metal boxes/cages which can be filled with stone and/or gravel and placed on river banks and other locations to work as flood-resistant walls. (See: for more from Wikipedia.)

“We distributed 90,000 gabion boxes to [all] 34 provinces from March to June 2008,” Naseer Ahmad Popal, head of the social protection unit at the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), told IRIN.

Positive outcomes

Local people in Behsood District of Nangarhar Province, eastern Afghanistan, said gabion boxes had helped defend their houses and land against flooding on several occasions this year.

“In the past rain often turned into floods and the water destroyed our homes and land, but this year, owing to these gabions, we have not experienced flooding so far,” said Abdul Manan, a famer in Behsood.

Behsood District officials said gabion boxes had been effectively positioned, thus creating strong flood-resistance capacity.

Poor outcomes

However, several locals in another vulnerable province, Daykundi, central Afghanistan, did not rate their effectiveness, citing reasons for their alleged failure.

“The gabions placed here are too weak to stop floodwater,” said Golam Sakhi, a resident of Nili, the provincial capital of Daykundi.

“We have received too few gabion boxes and therefore they have not been useful,” said another man, Hassan Ali.

The MRRD conceded that there were shortcomings in terms of the manner in which they had been deployed in some areas.

“In some cases gabions have been placed in the wrong location and in other cases they have been set up incorrectly,” said the MRRD’s Popal.

More measures needed

Despite the use of gabion boxes, over 90 people have lost their lives and dozens of houses have been damaged in the several instances of flash floods over the past five months, ANDMA reported.

“Certainly gabions alone cannot impede floodwater everywhere and at all times. There is a need for other measures to mitigate flood risks and also to build flood-resistance capacity,” Mohammad Aslam Seyas, deputy director of ANDMA, told IRIN.

Owing to steady deforestation over the past 30 years, the country has lost much of its natural flood-resistance.

According to Seyas, the planting of trees in flood-prone areas, the construction of flood-resistant walls alongside rivers, encouraging people to move out of highly vulnerable locations, and improved water management efforts are some of ANDMA’s recommendations for protecting communities against flood risks.

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September 3, 2008 at 3:00 am

Posted in Development

India completes Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan

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[UNI] – New Delhi, Aug 5 : India has completed the construction of the 218 Km Zaranj-Delaram Highway in South-Western Afghanistan despite attacks by Taliban and the loss of precious lives of Indian nationals working on the project.

The prestigious highway that will connect India with Central Asia will be handed over to the Afghanistan government soon.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who conveyed this to visiting Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai described the construction of the road as ”a major test of our joint resolve.” Mr Karzai is here on a two-day State visit after attending the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo. He held talks yesterday with the Prime Minister and other leaders.

”…one of the important infrastructure projects in Western Afghanistan–the road from Zaranj to Delaram–is now complete and will be handed over soon to the Government of Afghanistan.

The construction of this road was a major test of our joint resolve,” the Prime Minister said.

He described the road as a symbol of India-Afghanistan cooperation and a tribute to the precious Indian and Afghan lives that were lost in making this project a reality.

”The road has brought our two peoples closer together,” Dr Singh said.

He said India’s efforts for the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan were part of a larger international endeavour to help the Afghan people in forging a pluralistic and democratic society.

The highway, which has been constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) of the Indian Army, is in Nimroz province and Indian engineers have repeatedly been targeted by the Taliban.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said recently that Taliban want India out of Afghanistan.

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August 24, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Development

Pakistan, Afghanistan sign electricity import agreement with Central Asia states

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Islamabad, Aug 4, IRNA

Pakistan and Afghanistan will import 1,300 megawatts electricity from two Central Asian states Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan under an agreement signed in Islamabad on Monday.

Under the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA-1000) agreement Pakistan will import 1,000 MW and Afghanistan 300 MW.

The transmission line will be 477 km long from Kyrgyz Republic to Tajikistan and 750 km between Tajikistan and Pakistan via Kabul.

The agreement was signed on conclusion of two-day

Inter-Governmental Council (IGC) meeting of Central Asia/South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM).

The agreement was signed by energy ministers from the four countries in the presence of representatives of the international financial institutions including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank.

Pakistan’s Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf told a news conference that CASA 1000 Project is expected to be commissioned by year 2013.

“The project would go a long way in overcoming power shortages in Pakistan, as well Afghanistan”.

The IGC Secretariat will be set up at Kabul and would become operational with immediate effect. Qazi Naeemuddin of Pakistan has been appointed first Executive Director of IGC Secretariat.

“The project is a landmark as it fosters regional electricity market and brings together countries of Central and South Asia and also opens new vistas of trade and energy among energy rich and energy deficit countries,” Ashraf said.

Minister of Energy and Water of Afghanistan Alhaj Mohammad Ismail Khan said that the agreement will play a vital role in the strengthening of relations between members’ states.

He added it will certainly be a great milestone for the economic development of the members’ states.

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August 24, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Development

Asian Bank to Boost Rural GSM Service in Afghanistan

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August 13, 2008

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to provide a US$55 million loan to the Afghanistan based mobile operator, Roshan so it can extend its coverage to parts of the country that have little or no telecommunications infrastructure in place. The loan to Telecom Development Company Afghanistan, which trades under the name Roshan, will also support the rollout of a mobile banking system called M-Paisa.

“This expansion will introduce mobile phone services to remote and war-torn areas, which lag far behind in the nation’s reconstruction efforts and for which telecom services are vital,” said Mr. Michael Barrow, a Director of ADB’s Private Sector Department.

“It will give people in remote areas better access to markets, access to information and will support families and communities that are often fragmented. It will also be a great boost for the private sector by helping businesses access new parts of the country.”

The total cost of the expansion will be $175 million, which includes capital expenditure into new districts, upgrading equipment, and transforming sites to use solar power. The balance of the funding will come from other investors.

Roshan, the Government of Afghanistan’s largest taxpayer, intends for the expansion to reach almost all semi-urban and major rural areas – furthering pro-poor and inclusive economic growth.

ADB has supported Roshan since it was established in 2003. After over 20 years of war, in 2003 only 80 thousand people had access to a phone, making Afghanistan one of the markets with the lowest phone penetration in the world.

ADB has approved nearly $1.3 billion in loans, grants and other support for Afghanistan since resuming operations in the country in 2002. The focus has been on rebuilding roads, power infrastructure and irrigation networks. At a donors’ conference in Paris in June, ADB pledged up to $1.3 billion in further assistance for the next five years.

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August 15, 2008 at 4:59 am

Posted in Development

The Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development signs 67 development project contracts in Kandahar

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Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Press Release No: 344

Kandahar (Thursday, June 12, 2008): H.E. Mohammad Ehsan Zia, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, today signed 67 development project contracts for the southwestern provinces with private companies and Community Development Councils (CDCs).

The total cost of these projects, including roads, clinics, drinking water, retaining walls, and water intakes amounts to (USD) 2,740,354 (Afs137,017700) funded through the development budget of MRRD.

Of these projects, 26 will be implemented in Kandahar province, 10 in Zabul province, 6 in Nimroz province, and 26 in Urozgan province. In total, these projects will create will create 122,388 working days while employing 1,574 local residents. The completion of these projects will provide 45,924 families with a wide range of essential facilities.

With the signing of these development contracts during this visit of H.E. Mohammad Ehsan Zia to Kandahar, the number of development projects for these provinces now totals 572, of which 284 are completed.

In a press conference following the signing ceremony, H.E. Mohammad Ehsan Zia said: ‘The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development has launched hundreds of projects in southwestern Afghanistan over the last two years. The Kandahar Model, which allows us to rapidly implement development projects, is a success that now extends to Helmand province and beyond.

H.E. Mohammad Ehsan Zia added: ‘The communities involved contributed significantly to the implementation of these projects: a commitment that demonstrates their eagerness to rebuild local infrastructure and reduce insecurity.’

The contract signings follows H.E. Mohammad Ehsan Zia’s announcement Wednesday of a (CDN$) 50 million (approximately Afs 100,000,000) investment by the government of Canada to repair the Dahla dam, the Province of Kandahar’s major source of drinking and irrigation water. The project, which this September, will create 10,000 jobs and irrigate 10,000 hectares of land.

The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development helps ensure the social, economic and political well-being of rural society, especially poor and vulnerable people, through the provision of basic services, to strengthen local governance and promote sustainable livelihoods.

Please see attached the latest Dari development update for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation & Development.

For more information
Please Call
Mr.Daud Habib zai
Cells: +93-(0)700 665 483

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June 12, 2008 at 6:05 am

Posted in Development

AFGHANISTAN: Fund shortage may shut UN humanitarian air service

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KABUL, 5 June 2008 (IRIN) – The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) may have to abandon its operations in Afghanistan due to a shortfall of US$2.5 million.

“We have an annual budget of $19.5 million of which $15.5 million mainly comes from passenger fares. There is a projected shortfall of $4 million,” said Loic Lataste, the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) air transport officer in Kabul, adding that the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund had contributed $1.35 million to UNHAS to fill the gap in 2008.

UNHAS is managed by WFP and is the only air service in Afghanistan whose domestic flights are approved by the UN Safety and Security Department and are considered compliant with international flight standards. The service is widely used by UN employees, foreign diplomats and NGOs to travel around the country, as well as to Dubai and Islamabad in Pakistan.

After two meetings with donors, in December 2007 and March 2008, the operation’s repeated requests for $2.5 million funding have not received any positive response. “It’s a small budget compared to what’s spent on humanitarian and development activities in this country,” Lastaste said. “We’ll be forced to stop our operation in the coming months if we don’t receive additional funds.”

Fuel prices have gone up by about 100 percent in the past 12 months, making flights very expensive, according to Lataste.

“It’s also difficult to find operators who can meet UN flight safety standards and are willing to fly in Afghanistan, mostly due to insecurity,” he added.

Intensifying conflict-related violence and deteriorating security in different parts of Afghanistan have increasingly impeded humanitarian and development access. Increased insurgency and criminal attacks have, meanwhile, restricted missions by road to almost half the landlocked country for most aid workers, including UN agencies.

UN employees are only allowed to travel to provincial capitals in the south, west, central and southeast by air and UNHAS is the only security-cleared airline with flights between Kabul and Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, Kuduz, Mazar, Faizabad and Bamiyan.

“The reasons for maintaining UNHAS services in Afghanistan have not changed,” Lataste said, adding that domestic airlines were not in compliance with secure flight standards, insecurity was a major concern and roads were poor.

UNHAS says it served 42,000 passengers, mostly UN and NGO staff, and carried 1,100 tonnes of humanitarian cargo in 2007.

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June 7, 2008 at 5:59 am