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Dahla Dam one of CAN's "Signature Projects" in AFG

The Bread Guy

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Shared with the usual disclaimer...

Canada to make dam restoration its signature Afghan development project
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 10 Jun 08
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Conservative government plans to make the refurbishment and expansion of a dam bordering a sapphire-coloured lake in northern Kandahar the jewel of Canada's development effort in the war-torn region, The Canadian Press has learned.

Roughly $120 million is expected to be poured into the Dahla dam, in northern Arghandab district, over the next nine years, said political and defence sources who asked not to be named.

Other international partners, including USAID, could also contribute to the project, Afghan sources added.

The intent would be to help improve irrigation along the Arghandab River Valley, a semi-lush concourse that weaves its way across the parched moonscape of southern Afghanistan.

Officials with the Canadian International Development Agency inspected the dam in late March.

There will be three phases to the project, but Canada will not contribute to all of them.

The dam has three small turbine-operated power generating stations right now that are barely functional, but the project will not be aimed at restoring them ....

Seems there was a visit in March by a team from the Kandahar PRT:  "27 March 2008/Joint mission to Dahla Dam - Traveling from Kabul, officials from the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water, including the Vice Minister and some of the Ministry’s technical advisors, joined their colleagues from the Kandahar Provincial office of Irrigation and Canadian officials from CIDA and the KPRT to conduct a joint mission to the Dahla Dam. The mission visited the dam site and the irrigation system infrastructure along the Arghandab river sub-basin in Kandahar province from March 26 to 28, 2008. The intent of the mission was to examine the existing infrastructure, as part of the planning for the rehabilitation of the dam.  Built in the 1950’s by USAID, the Arghandab irrigation system is the most vital piece of agricultural infrastructure in Kandahar province. Water from the dam is meant to flow through the river, canal and irrigation systems in seven districts of the province, allowing for the irrigation of approximately 40,000 hectares of land. There has been little maintenance of the dam water control mechanisms and canal system infrastructure over the past 60 years, leaving local authorities with little ability to control flows of water throughout the year. In this arid province, without this ability to irrigate, there would be a devastating impact for the agricultural economy of Kandahar."

- edited to change title of thread -
I wonder who will be providing secruity and how long it takes to fix a dam seeing it takes forever to build new roads.
Recognizing the military significance, Canada has already established important fortified outposts in the region.

But military officials downplayed the threat, saying efforts to get the locals to buy in are showing signs of success and area power brokers are willing to provide "security," which in this country means an armed militia.
Water is life and repairing this dam would bring water to the deserts that were once the agricultural breadbasket of Afghanistan.
Certainly an attractive target for the Taliban, I believe the population would tear the Taliban limb from limb if they did damage to a repaired dam....  BUT, damage the power distribution system that is linked to the dam would be met by stoic "in sha allah" if god wills it.
And here we have it, in more detail (highlights mine)....

Government of Canada Sets Future Course for Engagement in Afghanistan
Government of Canada news release No. 136, 10 Jun 08
News release - Quarterly Report to Parliament (.pdf)

The Government of Canada today announced clear priorities and three “signature projects” related to Canada’s future engagement in Afghanistan. This new direction will ensure a measurable improvement in the lives of citizens living in Kandahar province between now and 2011.

“Our ultimate goal remains the same—to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful, and more secure,” said Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister David Emerson. “What is new is that we will significantly concentrate Canadian efforts and resources on the areas most likely to help us reach that goal.”

Today’s announcement responds directly to recommendations outlined in the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan.

The progress that Canada has achieved in the last few months, along with the challenges and direction forward, is outlined in the inaugural Report to Parliament on Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan. “Setting a Course to 2011,” which was tabled today in the House of Commons, fulfills a commitment in the March 13 parliamentary motion to provide regular updates to the House of Commons.

For the next three years, Canada will focus on a targeted set of objectives in keeping with proven Canadian strengths and consistent with Afghan objectives and the efforts of the international community.

The first four priorities focus primarily on Kandahar. Canada will help the Government of Afghanistan to:
•        maintain a more secure environment and establish law and order by building the capacity of the Afghan National Army and Police, and supporting complementary efforts in the areas of justice and corrections;
•        provide jobs, education, and essential services, like water;
•        provide humanitarian assistance to people in need, including refugees; and
•        enhance the management and security of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Nationally, Canada will help:
•        build Afghan institutions that are central to our Kandahar priorities and support democratic processes such as elections; and
•        contribute to Afghan-led political reconciliation efforts aimed at weakening the insurgency and fostering a sustainable peace.

“Canada has done remarkable work in Afghanistan,” said Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay. “The dedication and sacrifice of our military and civilian team have only strengthened our resolve and will continue to inspire us to work to fulfill these important priorities.”

“Afghans must control their own destiny,” added Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day. “Their future must be built on security, good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

As Canada transforms its engagement in Afghanistan, our Kandahar-focused programming will comprise more than 50 percent of our total effort, and more and more funding will be directed toward efforts to benefit the people of that province. Prominent among Canadian activities in the province will be three “signature projects.” Canada will:
•        support rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation and canal system, generating Afghan jobs and fostering agriculture;
•        build, expand and repair a total of 50 schools; and
•        expand support for polio immunization in Kandahar with a view to eradicating the debilitating disease in Afghanistan by the end of 2009.

“With greater focus, increased resources in the field and initiatives that will touch the lives of the Afghan people, Canada will be making a difference,” said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation. “Improved water, education, and health are three key basic services needed for a better future in Kandahar.”

To finance these and other development-related initiatives, Canada will be increasing its 10-year allocation to development and reconstruction in Afghanistan from $1.3 billion to a total of $1.9 billion (2001-2011).

For further information on the new signature projects announced today and on Canada’s priorities in Afghanistan from now until 2011, please refer to the backgrounders located at:


- 30 -

Backgrounders on
Dahla Dam and Irrigation System
Education in Kandahar
Polio Eradication
It should be noted that the Dahla Dam is used purely for irrigation control; there is no power output from it.  As noted by geo, it does feed water into the breadbasket of the area and is key to stimulate agriculture.  It will be a multi-stage, multi-year, multi-party and multi-million dollar project.

Constructed in the 1950s by the Americans, the Dahla dam is supposed to feed water to seven districts in the province, covering 40,000 hectares of farmland.

There are also three small power generating facilities, but because of silt buildup at the gates and problems with hydraulic power, the hydro section barely functions even though the international community, through the United Nations, describes the dam as operational.

No power generating facilities?

Of course there aren't......
The only power generation ability at Dahla Dam is a small turbine that is used to power the internal working mechanisms of the dam with a back-up diesel generator (not that any of these mechanisms or the turbine work at this time).  The dam is releasing water downstream, but not in a controlled manner.  I am pretty confindent in these details as I was standing on the dam yesterday...
Guess the 3 power generating facilities discussed in the press release were either planned and never installed, removed and never replaced or something of that nature.
Given the Canadian model of having locals execute the majority if not all of the work, I see bringing this dam back to it's intended purpose as being a huge challenge.

keep safe
Nipa Banerjee, head of Canada's aid program in Kabul from 2003 to 2006, makes the case against "signature" aid projects:

But Afghans are aggrieved to see the failure of the elections, conducted with an investment of more than $130 million, to deliver true democratic governance.

I truly wonder if the comment on lack of true democratic governance comes from the people OR more likely, Nipa Banerjee's spin on things.
Democracy to the average North Americano & Euro based citzen does not necessarily mesh with the Definition of Democracy in Russia & elsewhere.

I see Pres Karzai as having to do a perpetual balancing act in his efforts to maintain a semblance of control between the different groups that constitute Afghanistan.

True democratic progress will only come with time and anyone who expects it to sprout up within a couple of years is somewhat naive..... IMHO
Bumped with some of the latest:
Dozens of irrigation canals in Kandahar, once clogged with silt, are now brimming with water that's helping to improve the livelihoods of local farmers, says a report into one of Canada's signature development projects in Afghanistan.

But as the money dries up, so too will the water in the fields, warns the report, the final evaluation of the effort during Canada's Afghan mission to restore the flow of water from the moribund Dahla Dam.

"From a practical perspective, unless funding is made available on an annual basis, over time the physical irrigation infrastructure will slowly deteriorate and the area under irrigation will decrease,"said the report, submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs earlier this year.

As the Afghan government struggles with budget shortfalls in the face of declining international aid, the financial future of the irrigation project is unclear, except for one thing: no more money is coming from Canada.

With the report, the government has washed its hands of what the Conservatives had hoped would be a Canadian legacy in Afghanistan, but what the report suggests was a great deal of effort and expense for very mixed results ....
I am curious if Canada took any military or civilian casualties directly related to securing this specific site for reconstruction. If so, this is both a blood and treasure project, should not be left to disintegrate in vain. 
The project was built in the 60's by Germans and Americans, the Canadians did spend treasure and blood to fix as much as possible. The reality is that such infrastructure works require continual maintenance, which require some sort of functioning government. The Taliban first priority is to ensure there is no functioning government to compete with, so the Taliban need to be broken or reduced enough that the domestic government can maintain such services. It is unrealistic to suppose that countries like Canada are going to continue indefinitely to sustain such projects. We did the work, we showed them how to do it and now it's up to them. I have no doubts that the Afghan government is aware of the importance of the dam and canals, but do they have the will, resources and focus to succeed?

As I recall when ISAF forces assessed it, the dam was being run by a small cadre of dedicated Afghan's mostly unpaid and fixing things as they could because they knew how important the dam was to the region. I also recall that the dam changed the local water table and caused mineral upwelling that changed the localized soil making some of it unsuitable for traditional crops.