Public reps, residents back joint dam project
ASADABAD (PAN): Provincial council members and residents of eastern Kunar province have backed the proposed construction of a joint hydropower dam by Afghanistan and Pakistan on the Kunar River. However, they doubt Islamabad will keep its promise.
On the eve of President Hamid Karzai’s visit to the neighbouring country last week, Afghan and Pakistani finance ministers decided to pursue the dam project on technical and political forums.
Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal and his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar, leading their respective delegations, held an in-depth discussion on exploring ways to enhance bilateral trade and economic relations.
Kunar provincial council chief Mian Hassan Adil said President Hamid Karzai’s government had a public mandate and would make decisions in the national interest. He added a dam on Kunar River, a major tributary of Kabul River contributing almost 13 million acres feet (MAF) annually to Pakistan, would benefit both sides.
“I as head of Kunar council and public representative welcome and appreciate the plan,” said Adil, who believed improved trade relations between the two countries would resolve common problems facing the two nations.
He said Pakistan had ignored its economic interest in Afghanistan, an area that could overcome security issues on both sides of the Durand Line.
He said the people of Kunar would be the most beneficiary of the dam, saying Kunar was a mountainous province with small swaths of arable lands. If the dam was built, Kunar would turn into an industrial zone, he believed.
Political expert Mohammad Zubair Spezalai held positive view about the dam project, but had some doubts about Pakistan’s intention. He said Pakistan had made similar claims and promises in the past, but failed to realise them.
He said if Pakistan extended its sincere cooperation to Afghanistan in areas of mutual interest, it would help enhance trade relations and people-to-people and government-to-government contracts.
An Asadabad resident Roohullah said the dam project would not only resolve energy crisis, but also leave a positive impact on the security situation in the region.
He said the Taliban would not attack Pakistani engineers and workers on the project and would avoid creating hurdles to its completion.
He said new factories would be established in Kunar once the dam was constructed and residents would be able to find jobs and lead a prosperous life.
Experts say 300 megawatts of electricity could be produced with the construction of another dam on the river in Sagai area near Asadabad.
A survey during Sardar Mohammad Duad Khan government had found that 1000 megawatts of electricity could be generated at the Sara Taq area in Asmar district on the river.
The Afghan government has previously conducted a survey with Indian assistance in Shal and Shagai areas, noting that the sites had the potential to produce more than 1000 megawatts of electricity. However, it is not clear whether Pakistan will construct the proposed dam on the surveyed sites.
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