By Army Pvt. Tamara Gabbard
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 8, 2008 - Some areas of Afghanistan's Parwan province have been without water for years, while other areas are nearly flooded. A June 23 meeting brought together a Parwan Provincial Council member, a U.S. military civil affairs leader and a United Nations Habitat District manager to discuss plans to improve water distribution.
Ahmed Zaki, Army Capt. Steve H. Keiser and Mohammad Hashim got together with the common hope that improved water distribution will enhance villagers' livelihood and bolster Afghanistan's growth.
Northern districts receive water from the Panjier River, but the southern areas relied on a Chinese-built canal that proved successful in those areas in the past, but now is partially blocked.
"We are going to use what is already there," Kaiser said. "We need to remove the sediment that has built up in the old canal and keep it out permanently."
Zaki said he believes his team may be able to channel forces of nature to unblock the canal.
"This part of the project will need [a minimal amount of] laborers," he said. "We will just create a block and turn the river through the canal, and it will flush the canal out naturally."
The next project they plan to undertake is to clean areas southwest of Bagram Air Base, where water has backed up and is starting to push people out of their homes.
The area will be thoroughly cleaned and expanded to allow more water flow, Keiser said, explaining that this method eventually will decrease the amount of water in one village and distribute it to another that needs it.
"Once we get into these lower areas where most of the work needs to be done, we will start employing local nationals to build and rebuild the canal," Keiser said. "We will have approximately 50 workers for each section in each different spot that is being worked on."
After the canal is unblocked, cleaned and expanded, the project will go into its final phase, which finally will get water to drought-stricken areas.
"The natural flow of water was plugged four years ago due to security reasons," Kaiser said, explaining that the canal cannot run through the air base.
A previous provincial reconstruction team built a windmill-pump reservoir, but the project didn't pump enough water to the waterless areas. Kaiser, Zaki and Hashim said they understand that the key to getting the water lies in building a new section of canal that will wrap around the air base's perimeter.
"We have proposed an extension of the existing canal along the west side [of Bagram Air Base]," Kaiser said. Once construction begins, the project is expected to take two to three months.
The three men agreed that water is extremely important to sustaining life and economic progression in Afghanistan and that security must still remain paramount, Kaiser said. "If you can effect some change in the water flow as well as the economy, you can really help in their lives, and we really want to be good neighbors."
(Army Pvt. Tamara Gabbard serves with 382nd Public Affairs Detachment.)