Dahla Dam reconstruction gives hope to Kandahar farmers
KANDAHAR (PAN): When the Dahla Dam, the second largest in Afghanistan, is repaired it will provide enough water to irrigate 60 thousand hectares of agricultural land and gardens in seven districts of southern Kandahar province.
The dam, which was built 60 years ago during the reign of King Zahir Shah, is located about 40 kilometres from Kandahar City, on the Arghandab River in Shah Wali Kot district. Three decades of war and neglect have left the dam and its network of canals irrigating fields across the province, in ruins.
About 40 percent of the dam and its aqueducts are filled with debris, reducing its capacity for water storage. It can hold about 300 million cubic metres of water, compared to its actual capacity of 484 million cubic metres.
Engineer Shir Mohammad Atai, head of the irrigation department in Kandahar, said that reconstruction work on the dam started two years ago and that 70 percent had already been completed. The rest would be finished by the end of 2011, and is being financed by the Canadians, he said.
“After the completion of this project, the dam will irrigate 60 thousand hectares of agricultural lands and gardens in seven districts; Shah Wali Kot, Arghandab, Zhirai, Panjway, Maiwand, Dand and Daman,” he said.
“Because of silting, the dam can only irrigate 40,000 hectares of lands and gardens,” he said. And while the reservoir is 50 metres high, only about 25 metres is filled with water. The rest is debris and silt, he said.
Canada has poured $50 million into the re-construction of the dam since 2009. Some of the work includes repairing technical components, constructing buildings, doors and turbines, as well as cleaning streams and canals.
“Thousands of people are busy in this project. Seventy percent of the construction is finished, and in next few days, cleaning work of Tarnak canal will start,” Atai said.
“After completion of this project we will be able to prevent water wastage, and we will be able to irrigate more lands.”
Right now the dam, which was built with financing from the US in 1951, can irrigate 40,000 hectares of land, but when the repairs are completed, it will irrigate 60,000 hectares and benefit 1 million people, he said.
“Some lands and gardens have not been properly irrigated for nine years,” Atai said.
Even if the dam was completely clear, it still could not irrigate all the land all year, as the water table is low and without regular rainfall, it is not filling up again.
Arghandab canal, southern Arghandab canal, Baba Wali canal and the south and north Tarnak canals carry water from the Dahla Dam. The canals then divide into 55 streams, which in addition to the 55 natural streams of the Arghandab River make a total of 110, irrigating lands across Afghanistan’s agricultural heartland.
For the past two months, thousands of people have been employed to clean the streams, Atai said.
Residents of Kandahar are happy about the reconstruction of the dam which they hope will solve their water problems. However, some farmers from different districts say they are still unable to get a fair share of the water and are asking for a better distribution process.
Fada Muhammad, a resident of Makwan in Zhirai district, said the water often does not reach many parts of Maiwand and Zhirai districts.
“Some powerful people disrespect the law, they use more water and when they have taken their fill, then they allow us to use what’s left, which often is not enough,” he said.
Sardar Mohammad, a resident of Maiwand, said there should be better monitoring of who takes the water and how. “Those who are responsible at the irrigation department should observe the order and distribute water to everyone according to a schedule.”
Atai, the irrigation department chief, acknowledged there was a problem with equitable water distribution. “Some powerful people disrespect the law; sometimes they break the canal’s locks and chains; sometimes they even break the canal doors to irrigate their lands.”
However, he said that the problems would be solved once the project was complete as they would be able to hire someone to better monitor and improve the distribution of water.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.