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The Killid Group

Fund crunch, security derail big plans for dams

Written by Shoib Tanha
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 09:40

Fund crunch, security derail big plans for dams More than half the country’s water resources are wasted says the Ministry of Water and Energy. What Afghanistan needs is myriad dams to meet its enormous energy and water needs.
The ministry estimates the country has a capacity of 46 milliard cubic metres of water. At present only 20 milliard cubic metres are being used, the rest flow away into neighbouring countries.
The Ministry of Water and Energy has ambitious plans to harness water for electricity. Its National Programme of Water Sources Development plans to construct dams for hydropower generation and irrigation.
Sultan Mahmood Mahmoodi, director of water management in the Ministry of Water and Energy says 400 to 500 big and small dams are in the pipeline including 20 reservoirs. These include reservoirs in Kabul, Faryab, Machalgho in Paktia, Baghlan, Bakhshabad dam in Farah, Kamal Khan dam in Nimroz, Takhar, Badakhshan, Kandahar and Helmand.
Within one year 111 small dams would be surveyed and designed, adds Mahmoodi. The Ministry of Water and Energy is scrutinising irrigation projects that are expected to water 350,000 hectares of land.
However, development is hobbled by the shadow of conflict in the country. Security is the biggest problem facing the dam makers. Investigations by Killid reveal that three dams in the east are in trouble because of fighting with the Taleban.
The dam of Bakhshabad in Balabolok district of Farah province is projected to be Afghanistan’s biggest. On completion the dam, which will be built at an estimated cost of 200 million USD, will meet 85 percent of the water needs of the parched villages in the province.
Preliminary work on the project was started in 2008 by the Afghan Construction and Rehabilitation Company together with an Indian company. But work was stopped because of interference from Pakistan and Iran, say provincial authorities.
Mohammad Younus Rasooli, the assistant governor of Farah province, says, “Two countries - Iran and Pakistan - don’t want the work on this big dam to be completed as they don’t want Afghanistan to be a self-sufficient country, to have water for irrigation and energy.”
According to Rasooli, 22 soldiers have been killed or injured in attacks by the Taleban since work on the dam started. Among those killed and injured were 11 police from the Afghan National Police force in September 2011, the last major attack. The assistant governor insists the two countries are equipping the “opponents of the Afghan government with money and military equipment to carry out attacks in Bakhshabad. We have frequently informed the authorities in the Ministry of Water and Energy but they have not paid any attention.”
Rasooli says the people of the province are prepared to guard the project. “But we are waiting to hear what emergency actions the government is planning,” he adds.

Sabotage threat
Another dam which needs security is the Kamal Khan in Nimroz province. Some 150 soldiers have been deputed to guard the dam, but they are too few for such a large project says Haji Musa Rasooli, police commander of Nimroz. “We want the Ministry of Interior Affairs to depute a special battalion for the security of the Kamal Khan dam because the present force is not enough.”
Security forces were able to “frustrate” an attempt to sabotage the dam, the police commander says. On Mar 22, armed Taleban attacked an engineering group at the project site, Abdul Rawoof, an Afghan engineer confirms.
“They laid mines in the way of the engineers and security forces,” says police commander Rasooli. “But we detected the mines, and were able to kill 16-17 Taleban during the attacks,” he adds.
Work on the Kamal Khan dam began in Char Borjak district in January this year. When completed it will produce 22 MW of electricity and irrigate 90 percent of the land in the province. The first phase is being constructed by Tajik engineers. The budget for the first phase is 9 million USD, and is expected to be completed within one year by Tajik engineers, Minister of Water and Energy, Mohammad Esmayeel, says.
Security fears have frustrated progress on the hydroelectric project in Chasht district, Herat province that was designed by the late president Dawood Khan in 1977. Work on the dam restarted in 2007, and it is expected to be completed by March next year.
Project on hold
According to Sayed Hasan Fazli, director of the Herat Water Management department, the dam at Salma will store water for irrigation for 75,000 hectares of land, and generate 42 MW of electricity.
An estimated 70 percent of the work on the 200-million USD project, which was bagged by India, has been completed. Work, however, has stopped for the last six months because of non-payment of dues to 250 Indian engineers employed on the project, and 500 Afghan workers. Aziz Ahmad, spokesman at the Indian consulate in Herat, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not released funds to WAPCOS Ltd., the Indian company implementing the Salma dam project.
N Chander Chadha, the assistant director of WAPCOS told Killid Radio in Herat, “In spite of numerous security, technical and climate problems, we have been able to complete 70 percent of the work. We hope the Salma dam will be completed by March (2013).”
The dam, 170 km west of Herat city, has had security problems. “The security situation was very bad,” says Toryalai Haleem Yar, the administrative deputy to the fourth zone of border police headquarters in western Afghanistan. Some 100 men from the border police were sent to the area to “help” security forces provide security for the public utility project.
Projects are delayed also because of non-cooperation of ministries, says Dr Zaher Faiz Zada, head of Herat’s provincial council. He accuses the ministries of the central government of “fanaticism” and says, “There is fanaticism against Herat. Unfortunately the ministries are negative in their perception.”
“Some of the ministries don’t want the work to be implemented properly. For instance if the Ministry of Water and Energy wants to take serious action regarding pushing a dam in Herat, the Ministry of Finance will not cooperate,” Zada says, hoping the “problem would be solved soon.”
The spokesman of the Ministry of Finance, Aziz Shams, has another view. He says the ministry has funds which it will release only on the completion of the project because of concerns of fund diversion and corruption. “Till a project is completed, money will not be paid because most cases of corruption in the past happened in this way.” For project planners this is a Catch 22 situation.

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