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
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 ADB says.
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," says Panella.
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 assistance project.
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 these resources.
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 marketing.
In a country prone to prolonged periods of drought, 85 percent
of people remain reliant on agriculture for their livelihood.
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
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 Rights Reserved.