Nangahar’s canal land lease pacts to be probed
JALALABAD (Pajhwok): The agriculture and livestock minister on Thursday said he would investigate long-term lease contracts for land plots part of the canal project in eastern Nangarhar province.
Asadullah Zameer told this to a gathering at the Governor’s House in Jalalabad, the provincial capital, during a visit aimed at discussing problems concerning the province’s agriculture and livestock sector.
After the governor and provincial council members demanded an investigation into the illegal long-term contracts for the canal’s lands, Zameer said the issue would be investigated.
He said a dozen such contracts had been scrapped in compliance with a presidential decree issued by former president Hamid Karzai and the renewal of another ten contracts had been proposed, but the ministry was yet to approve them.
Launched in the 1960s, the canal, a decades-long infrastructure project, was intended to be a huge income generator for eastern Afghanistan. Lands along its banks were set aside to be irrigated for farms and orchards that would provide jobs and revenues for the region.
Speaking on the occasion, Nangarhar governor Salim Khan Kunduzi urged the Ministry of Agriculture to take realistic steps for reconstruction of the canal project and devastated farms.
Having thousands of hectors of land, until the civil war began in 1992, the 70-kilometre waterway provided work for thousands of local residents employed in dairy farming and olive and fruit growing.
Two decades of conflict as well as structural decay damaged the canal and surrounding infrastructure, which now needs to be reconstructed.
Illegal land seizures and obtaining plots on lease for 90 years by some traders and devastation of farms are considered main problems affecting the Nangarhar Canal.
The governor urged the agriculture minister: “The canal project should be rehabilitated, the issue of contracts be resolved and devastated farms be revived.”
He said the ministry should pay special attention to Nangahar’s livestock, agriculture sector and vegetables production and their market.
Similar demands were presented by Cabinet Secretariat chief Nasrullah Arsalai, saying hundreds of acres of land of the canal had been given away under illegal accords. He said the issue would be discussed by the Council of Ministers.
He said besides illegal land grabs in the canal project, properties had been misappropriated in Jalalabad, something needed to be stopped.
Deputy head of the provincial council, Dr. Lal Mohammad Durrani, said the issue of land grabs in the canal project and land contracts should be seriously investigated.
Durrani said it was the negligence of the ministry of agriculture that agriculture products produced in Nangarhar were being taken to Pakistan, which sold them back to the Afghans for an increased price.
“Pakistan sometimes purchases most of onions from Afghan farmers who grow onions on all of their land next year but then Pakistan does not buy and as a result their crop destroys in fields.”
“A handful of individuals had granted the canal land on 90 years lease and the contractors had sold plots of the land to their relatives for construction of houses against the agreement,” another member of the provincial council, Israrullah Murad, said.
He said the contract had been declared void by the former president, but the illegal occupation of the canal continued.
The minister said he would try to resolve all the issues concerning the canal project and revealed that a plan had been devised for agriculture development in Nangahar. He said the plan would not only enable farmers to find access to market but would provide them many other facilities.
Asadullah Zameer also promised investment in the livestock sector of the province besides provision of vaccines for animal and plant diseases.
Two traders, Haji Gul Murad and Haji Farooq, had leased hundreds of acres of the canal land for 90 years. Though private structures have been built on the leased land, the two traders say the constructions are in accordance with the lease agreement.
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