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Dam project in Afghanistan shows few signs of life


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Dam project in Afghanistan shows few signs of life
Updated Thu. May. 28 2009 11:57 AM The Associated Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The bread basket of Afghanistan remains decidedly frayed -- and signs of Canada's almost year-old promise to help restore at least some of its former glory remain conspicuously scant.

The lush Arghandab River valley -- once home to a nourishing bounty of fruits and vegetables, including melons, grapes, wheat and the country's world-renowned pomegranates -- is struggling to live up to its former reputation.

.Nowadays, opium -- the far less wholesome but decidedly more lucrative by-product of the poppies that flourish in Afghanistan's dust-dry conditions -- is the crop of choice.

"Afghans don't have any other business except agriculture," said Haji Azim, 45, who farms in the restive and battle-pocked Panjwaii district, the cradle of the Taliban.

"We don't have any factories in Kandahar where people go and work, so (agriculture) is the only good business here."

Enter Canada's $50-million plan to refurbish the Dahla dam and irrigation system on the Arghandab River, the centrepiece of Ottawa's pledge to help restore the valley to its former glory while undermining the drug trade and unemployment that feeds the Taliban at the same time.

Ottawa itself has described the project as "urgent."

So far, however, the only obvious sign of Canadian involvement is a spiffy new observation post high above the dam, where the rag-tag handful of Afghan National Police officers who man the tower enjoy a breathtaking view of the valley below.

The officers are but a fraction of the 10,000 temporary workers who are to be hired to help with the project, which includes building the roads and bridges leading to the dam.

"Everything in Afghanistan moves slowly," said Warrant Officer Frank Berube, whose team recently provided force protection to two specialist engineers so they could visit the dam to check the observation post.

The Arghandab River, which begins as snow in the mountains to the northeast, cuts a majestic 400-kilometre swath through parched desert on either side as it forms the border between the Zhari and Panjwaii districts.

About 35 kilometres northeast of Kandahar -- population somewhere between 500,000 and 800,000 -- stands the Dahla dam, an impervious clay structure that speaks to a more peaceful time in a region racked by decades of relentless violence.

The shimmering grey-blue water of the reservoir and the river's wide green fringes, overlooked by gnarled hills and ragged mountains on either side, provide a wondrous contrast to the dusty moonscape that surrounds the area's outer reaches.

Built by the Americans in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the dam is an essential part of a 40-kilometre network of irrigation canals downstream, including a diversion channel into Kandahar city.

Years of civil war and neglect have left the system in sorry shape and barely functional.

Sluice gates designed to regulate water flows are permanently rusted in position. Silt has robbed the reservoir above the dam of about 30 per cent of its capacity and diminished the flows through the canal network.
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Slow start for ‘urgent' project
Canada's reconstruction showpiece, the Dahla dam, remains in the preliminary stages

Colin Freeze, Globe & Mail, 25 May 09
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Canada's “urgent” infrastructure project in Afghanistan is getting off to a slow start. Nearly one year after the $50-million Dahla dam reconstruction plan was announced by the Conservative government, only the preliminary groundwork has been done.

“With all projects, there is always some change in the schedule,” project manager Ismail Najjar said in a telephone interview from Montreal yesterday. He said he hopes to adhere to Ottawa's schedule, but the job will be a challenge.

“Security? We can't do much about it,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Canadian Forces engineers have lately been trying to smooth the project's progress with road work, since getting contractors safely to and from the site will be a job in itself ....

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Since the withdrawal of Canadian troops is immienent I suggest we use the tactics from Force 10 from Navarone and blow that dam up too.

Tow Tripod
Tow Tripod said:
... the tactics from Force 10 from Navarone and blow that dam up too.

Only if you get the part of Harrison Ford.
Tow Tripod said:
Since the withdrawal of Canadian troops is immienent I suggest we use the tactics from Force 10 from Navarone and blow that dam up too.

Tow Tripod

IMOHO, that is a common misconception.  Who said the withdrawal of Canadian troops is imminent??  The only thing that is imminent is the end of combat operations.  ie, we will stop going after the bad guys, looking for a fight.  We will still be there for years doing exactly what is happening at the dam right now-- reconstruction and force protection.