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The Killid Group

Villages split on NGO-built canal

Written by Jamshed Malekzai
Sunday, 20 November 2011 10:53

Villages split on NGO-built canal Canal on the abundant Kunar river is a boon to some and a bane to others.
The Marwared canal in Nangarhar province was meant to be a boon for agriculture. Instead, some farmers complain their lands have turned marshy and unproductive. The Japanese non-governmental organisation that built the canal in eastern Afghanistan says they were short of funds.
Work on the Kunar river canal was started by the Japanese PMS (Peshawar-kai Medical Services which works in the health, water supply and agriculture sectors) in 2003. The master plan was outlined by Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan, first president of Afghanistan, 1973-78, but the canal builders have not followed the original plan, according to local people. According to them, the 25-km long canal in Khewa district has problems of seepage, poor drainage and the excessive irrigation has led to a rise in the water table and submergence of land.

Some have suffered
Affected land owners have complained many times to the provincial authorities and PMS.
Arab Khan from Shamal village says 25 jeribs (1 jerib is roughly 0.2 hectare) of his land is waterlogged. He has been complaining to the government for five years but to no avail.
"The Gamberi desert has been irrigated by this canal. But our agricultural lands have been destroyed," Arab Khan told Killid.
Daulat Khan from Zor village in Khewa district thinks their problems are because of technical faults in the canal. The losses for farmers like him are much more than the benefits, he says.
Before the canal was built the land was watered by the Kunar river. Seepage has inundated agricultural land and made it unproductive, he says.
"We have not planted anything in the past three years in our land because the Japanese didn't build the canal correctly," says Daulat Khan.

Others have prospered
However, there are villages that have prospered after the canal was built. The project was completed in 2010. Shir Ali of Salampour village in Khewa district says his village has benefited "100 percent". "It is
correct that villages which had water earlier now are waterlogged, but the canal has saved many villages that always had a water problem," he says.
Engineer Baseer Gulab believes that if the canal had been built according to the original plan, it would have been problem free. He blames the PMS for not consulting either the provincial council or administration in the Gamberi desert.
"The width of the canal had been specified as 12 metres in Sardar Dawood's plan, which was three times wider than the present width. Also if they had planned to irrigate needy areas then they should have brought lands under irrigation areas in Badyalee and Dara Noor districts as well," says Baseer Gulab.
The engineer says he informed Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Nangarhar, about the problem three years ago. Nothing has happened so far because "the governor is not healthy, and sometimes he goes abroad", says Baseer Gulab.
Killid repeatedly tried to meet the Nangarhar governor for an interview but failed.

Brick-bats and accolades
Meanwhile, Zalmai Mazloom Yar, the secretary of the community council of Khewa district, says neither the government nor non-governmental agencies bother to consult with the community council and people. "Since they do not consult with people the public works are defective," he believes. He claims that during the construction of the Marwared canal they had complained many times about the quality of the work and urged that it be stopped but nobody heard them. "Though needs of some people were met, many villages next to the canal have been destroyed, the lands have become unproductive and many trees have died."
Engineer Mohammad Zareef, head of agricultural services in Khewa district, calculates that some 10,000 jeribs of land have been affected.

In defence
Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, the Pashto-speaking executive director of PMS, says they could not follow the blue-print of the Sardar Dawood master plan because of financial difficulties. In August 2008, a young Japanese engineer working on the project was abducted and killed.
Ahmad Shah Saadat, head of the Technical Sector in the irrigation department, confirms that "some works" were not completed because of budget problems.
The canal, which goes from Zairai Baba to Gamberi, was to be extended towards Daroonta, which would have helped the hydropower project in Daroonta, but there was no money.
Nakamura says they have dugs ditches in some areas to solve the submergence problem. "Before all the areas including Zor Kalai and Shamel Kalai were waterlogged," he says.
Haji Delawar, director of the Nangarhar irrigation department, blames villagers for not cooperating with the canal builders by giving land for building ditches. "The ditches should be dug in the areas where the lands and houses have been damaged but unfortunately some people did not give us the lands to dig the ditches in." He says the Marwared project was not part of the Dawood Khan master plan, which starts from Chawkee district of Kunar province and was contracted to an Iranian company in 2005.
According to him, the canal has irrigated 40,000 jeribs.

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