War on Terrorism

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Local Leaders Near Bagram See Problem, Solution for Water Issues

By Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 28, 2008 - People in the rural villages surrounding this former Soviet air base in eastern Afghanistan that's now being used for the headquarters of coalition operations in Afghanistan have been upset about an enigma surrounding an important creek for some time. Coyote Creek, as it is known on the base, enters the base on the west side of the flightline and then flows through to the east side. Or at least it used to.

Six years of dirt and silt have built up on the west end of the creek, causing severe flooding to the western villages, and droughts in the villages on the east side. Many of the local citizens thought this was done purposely by coalition forces to choke off their main water source.

So on Oct. 25, officials from the provincial reconstruction team for Afghanistan's Parwan province and the Mine Action Center here invited village elders onto the base to inspect the creek and see the progress that has been made to amend the problem.

Australian Maj. David Bergman, MAC officer in charge, said village elders were able to see for themselves that the creek had silted up from a long-term blockage to the drain that goes under the runway. "We saw approximately five feet of dirt that is blocking the creek head," he said. "And what that means is no water can actually enter in the creek and flow through."

This a concern not only for the local residents, but also for the base, Bergman said. When the west village floods, so does that part of Bagram Airfield and some of its roads and housing, he noted.

To eliminate the problem, the MAC burned down the dense plant growth around the creek within the base so the area can be cleared of hidden mines left over from the former Soviet occupation as the first step in solving the problem.

"Then we are going to use our demining excavators, which are up-armored, to actually go along the creekline and take out as much silt as we can to allow the water to flow from the western side of the creek through the tunnel under the runway," Bergman said.

While at the base, the village elders saw various places along the creek where the silt and debris had severely narrowed the creek bed or blocked its path. With all the vegetation burned away, the mess was clearly visible.

The elders showed a lot of excitement during the visit. There seemed to be no end to the handshakes, smiles and hugs from the most senior of the elders as they saw something is being done to fix their main water supply.

"From their standpoint, I feel that [the visit] helped them understand and know that we are here to help in whatever capacity we can," U.S.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jayson Blunck, MAC operations noncommissioned officer, said.

"We are truly concerned with the problem of the village not receiving water," Blunck added, "and bringing them on base helped them understand. Like the saying goes, 'A picture is worth a thousand words.'"

Army Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 101 Public Affairs Office.)

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