MANILA, Philippines, November 5, 2004 (ENS): Water resources
management and irrigated agriculture development are
about to transform parts of Afghanistan due to a grant
package approved today by the Asian Development Bank
(ADB). The technical assistance package will include
planning and assessment for a new dam on the Hari Rud
River that could expand the area of land under irrigation.
The Bank is contributing a grant of $1.2 million toward
the $2.06 million total cost of the technical assistance
and will administer a grant of $760,000 equivalent provided
by the government of Canada. The government of Afghanistan
will finance the remaining $100,000 equivalent.
The goal is to improve water resource management at
all levels in Afghanistan, from farm level to basin
management. It will also rehabilitate, modernize and
develop new irrigation and water resource infrastructure,
lay the foundations of improved agricultural productivity,
and ensure the integrity of watershed resources, the
Little of the irrigation potential of the western river
basins in Afghanistan has been tapped. But in the middle
and lower Hari Rud basin, around Herat, 29 traditional
irrigation systems exist with more than 500 kilometers
(300 miles) of main canals that irrigate 100,000 hectares
(386 square miles) as well as provide water for livestock,
domestic use, and municipal supplies.
The existing systems, which are centuries old, are
in need of major repair as decades of civil unrest have
made routine maintenance difficult and starved the sector
of resources and equipment.
"Increasing the productivity of irrigated agriculture
and strengthening water resource management are critical
to improving the overall rural economy and reducing
poverty," says Thomas Panella, an Asian Development
Bank water resources specialist.
"In addition to improving existing systems, new
land could be brought under irrigation in the western
basins, providing significant benefits to rural communities,"
Bringing new land under irrigation means reviving plans
for the Salma Dam on the Hari Rud River which was started
and abandoned in the early 1980s. Construction of the
dam at this point has been proposed by the government
of India, which supported the original project. Funding
has been earmarked for the project although no construction
schedule has been proposed and the updated feasibility
study is not yet available.
The 700 mile (1,130 km) long Hari Rud River arises in
the Kuh-e Baba range of central Afghanistan, and flows
west and then north into the steppes south of the Kara
Kum desert in Turkmenistan. The river irrigates the
fertile valley of Herat in northwest Afghanistan, and
ends in the Tejen oasis in Turkmenistan, a wheat, cotton,
and cattle raising area.
The proposed development of Salma Dam on the Hari Rud
River increases the need for basin management and planning
since the dam may have a large impact on the flow regime
of the river, the Bank suggests.
Strategies to most effectively exploit the dam’s
potential for irrigated agriculture in consonance with
its planned hydropower generation need to be developed,
and basin development should take place within socially
and environmentally sound policy frameworks, which do
not yet exist.
The technical assistance will allow evaluation of different
release regimes in the Hari Rud Basin under the proposed
Salma Dam to optimize irrigation rehabilitation and
development activities and will review all aspects of
the Salma Dam project to ensure that it reflects international
best practice and is consistent with ADB social, environmental,
and economic guidelines, the Bank said.
The ADB wants to help maximize Salma Dam's development
impact, the Bank said, and part of that desire is concern
for the "reputational risk" the bank and its
cofinancing partners are taking in financing this technical
As part of the technical assistance, the project will
hire a resettlement specialist to assess all potential
resettlement impacts and prepare a resettlement framework
consistent with the Bank's guidelines and "assess
resettlement activities and plans associated with development
of Salma Dam."
Critical to sustaining the water resources on which
irrigation depends are the watersheds in the western
basins. These have come under increasing pressure and
are severely degraded in many areas, greatly affecting
the poor and other marginalized groups who depend on
No institutions exist to manage water at a basin level
within the western basins and little data exist to allow
adequate water resource planning, the Bank says.
Although improved irrigation is vital to increase agricultural
productivity, other factors are involved. The Afghan
Department of Agriculture lacks the capacity to deliver
agricultural support services. Farmers need assistance
with inputs, extension, postharvest facilities, and
In a country prone to prolonged periods of drought,
85 percent of people remain reliant on agriculture for
The technical assistance will take an integrated approach
to designing a project that will establish the needed
capacities and frameworks to support successful and
sustainable programs and physical infrastructure.
Within an integrated water resource management framework,
technical experts hired for the project will prepare
an program based on feasibility studies for subprojects
and civil works, policies and institutional frameworks,
capacity building programs, service delivery mechanisms
and strategies, and monitoring and evaluation procedures.
The Afghan Ministry of Finance is the executing agency
for the technical assistance, which is to be carried
out over about eight months.
In total, the Asian Development Bank aims to prepare
an investment project for western Afghanistan in the
range of US$60-80 million, of which US$40 million would
come from the Bank.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All