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Infrastructure projects top priority in isolated areas

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By Homayon Khoram

Some 6000 isolated Afghan villagers will no longer be cut off
thanks to a new bridge being constructed in a remote village in north
eastern Afghanistan.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation
with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) has
funded the construction of the new bridge.

Around 1200 families live in Zangar, a village located at the
foot of high rising mountains in the Farkhar district of Takhar
province. It is a mountainous and cold area where snow never melts on
the peaks of the mountains.

The village is cut off by the Farkhar River and the only way
for villagers to access the rest of the province is by a primitive
wooden bridge that has been constructed by the villagers themselves;
but that is washed away every year by seasonal floods.

“A bridge is our village’s top priority. We are tired of
constructing the bridge every year to see it washed away again by
floods,” said Maulavi Ghulam Nabi a village elder.

The bridge is being constructed under the National Area Based Development Programme (NABDP), a UNDP-MRRD project.

“We implement small scale infrastructure projects such as
bridges, irrigation canals, health clinics and schools,” said NABDP
Programme Manager Jamie Graves.

“We have numerous projects for the north eastern region. There
are around a dozen NABDP projects that will be implemented in
Badakhshan next year,” added Jamie Graves.

Schools, irrigation canals, wells, bridges and protection walls
are among NABDP projects completed in Afghanistan’s north eastern
provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan.

There are a number of on-going NABDP projects in Baharak, Namak
Aab, Chah Aab and Farkhar districts of Takhar province. A school is
being built in Bajga village in Baghlan and will be completed in the
near future.

“I would like to encourage people to express their preferences
through the district development assemblies so we can identify where
the needs are,” concluded Jamie Graves.

The total budget for NABDP projects from February 2006 to January 2009 is US$ 164 million.


Written by afghandevnews

November 1, 2008 at 3:39 am

Posted in Aid, Infrastructure

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

Restoring an Afghan Dam in a Taliban Stronghold

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Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR
Morning Edition, April 24, 2008 · It has been nearly seven years since the Taliban regime fell in Afghanistan, but only 7 percent of the country’s residents have access to government-provided electricity.
American contractors hope to change that next year, at least for more than 1 million households in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province. Engineers there are trying to restore a half-century-old, U.S.-built dam and power plant in country that has become the heart of a Taliban insurgency.
Guerilla War Stifles Progress
Afghan experts say that if it were up to Mother Nature, their country would be aglow with electricity: There are plenty of waterways to power hydroelectric plants and wind to power turbines.
Yet little of this natural energy has been harnessed, despite millions of dollars in aid toward boosting the country’s power supply. Even in the capital, Kabul, most residents get only a few hours of electricity every other day.
Lawmaker Raz Mohammed Fais, whose parliament committee deals with power issues, says the situation is frustrating.
“Lots of promises have been made. Yet nothing practical has been done to provide people with electricity,” he says.
But Fais and others acknowledge that it is hard to build anything — let alone a power supply — while Afghanistan is mired in a guerrilla war.
Resurrection of Dam, Plant
A $16 million project to rehabilitate the Kajaki dam and power station in Helmand province is a case in point.
Modeled loosely after the Tennessee Valley Authority, the 330-foot dam and power plant served to showcase U.S. development in Afghanistan during the Cold War. The structures provided electrical power and helped irrigate tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
But they fell into disrepair after decades of war and neglect. By the time the U.S. Agency for International Development arrived at the compound five years ago, only one turbine could still be turned on. And it generated more vibration than electricity.
John Shepherd, one of the American engineers working on Kajaki, says they started repairing the power plant in December 2004.
“We rehabilitated the first turbine and brought it back online in October 2005 at full capacity, and then, due to the security situation, we weren’t able to move forward with the other unit,” Shepherd says.
That security situation is the Taliban insurgency. The group’s fighters are plentiful in this part of Helmand.
Maj. Mike Shervington is the new commander of British troops protecting the Kajaki compound.
He says Kajaki is an “an extremely important target for [the Taliban] because of what we are providing for the people of Helmand here.”
Shervington and others say the Taliban has targeted anyone who works on projects like Kajaki. The insurgent attacks have continued despite an influx of Western and Afghan troops into the region over the past year.
Security Issues Delay Project
The top Afghan engineer at Kajaki is a man named Rasoul. Born and raised in a village near Kajaki, he says he has worked at the power plant for 30 years.
Because of the constant gunfire, however, he has had to move his family to a safer area.
“First we moved to a village further away. That turned out to be unsafe as well, so I moved my wife and children to Kandahar,” Rasoul recalls.
Even now, insurgents operate checkpoints on the main road leading in and out of the dam area.
The Taliban presence means that everything and everyone has to be flown into the compound by helicopter. Engineers say that increases the costs and adds to the workload, because heavy machinery has to be disassembled before it can be airlifted.
If that weren’t enough, workers here say they also have to watch out for mines left over from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that occasionally wash up along the riverbanks.
Security issues have put the dam project about two years behind schedule. But Rasoul and Shepherd are confident that it will be completed.
At the power plant, the first thing on engineers’ agenda is getting the second turbine working again by next spring. Some of its replacement parts sit in front of the lone, working turbine.
Nearby, a gaping hole descends about 60 feet. Shepherd says it is the space for a new, third turbine.
That turbine is expected to be up and running later next year.
Copyright 2008 NPR

Written by afghandevnews

April 24, 2008 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Infrastructure

India builds important road-link joining Afghanistan with Iran

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New Delhi, Dec 19, IRNA

India is building a 217-kilometer Zaranj-Delaram highway, perhaps the most important road-link in land- locked Afghanistan.

According to an All India Radio report, the Border Roads Organization, BRO, is constructing the highway joining the country’s border with Iran at Zaranj and the garland highway at Delaram.

The garland highway connects Kabul, Kandahar, Herat,

Mazar-e-Sharif and Kunduz. With the completion of the highway, goods from Afghanistan’s main cities can be brought overland to the border with Iran and from there these will be transported to Chabahar and vice versa.

The BRO Chief Lt. Gen. A K Nanda said that the project cost was originally estimated at dlrs 70 million but there has been cost overrun because of the security situation in southwestern Afghanistan.

He said the highway runs through the drug-cultivation belt where there is huge resistance to the work being done by the BRO.

About 300 Indians are working on the project.

Written by afghandevnews

December 19, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Key bridge linking three Farah villages inaugurated

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KABUL, Dec 1 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The provincial government has celebrated the grand opening of the Charbagh bridge, a key transportation link among three villages near Farah City.

The US-led Coalition said on Saturday that the two-lane bridge, located in Farah City, would be used by several hundred vehicles – bringing development and humanitarian aid to the area.

In a statement mailed to Pajhwok Afghan News, the Coalition said a total of 7,000 residents of the three villages would gain access to district economic centers for trade and commerce.

Marking the inauguration of the bridge, the ceremony was presided over by Muhammad Younus, deputy governor, and Minister of Rural Reconstruction Development Abdul Rauf.

Our heartfelt thanks to the Coalition forces for helping the Afghan people,” Younus said while referring to the completion of the project by US-led forces.

The bridge will benefit not only the 7,000 residents, but also people from the surrounding district,” said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, Combined Joint Task Forces-82 spokesman.

“The Afghan government and the Coalition forces are committed to developing the infrastructure of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, he concluded.

Written by afghandevnews

December 4, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Infrastructure