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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reconstruction Team Launches Dam Project

24 Jun 07
By U.S. Navy Ensign Christopher Weis
.

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Through a $1.5 million project launched earlier this year, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Khost is finding that providing water for drinking and irrigation can be an effective weapon against terrorism.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. David Adams, who took over command of the 120-member joint team in April, said that by providing the funding and oversight necessary to empower local governments throughout Khost to decide where and how diversion dams will be built, the Provincial Reconstruction Team helps connect the people to their government -- which is the key to defeating the insurgency.

In a country held back by more than 30 years of war, ineffective water use has made life even more difficult in this already-barren country. Managing water is life or death for farmers like Haji Mazdigar Gul, 56, who explained that without a diversion dam, flooding often causes him to lose his fields, jeopardizing his family’s survival. His village of Koza Bokhana is one of 30 that will benefit from dams, which will redirect water from rivers to the fields of more than 80,000 farmers and families.

Villagers throughout Khost testify to the diversion dams’ ability to bring economic prosperity to the largely agricultural region. In roughly three weeks, the first of these dams will reach completion, helping local Afghans to better control flooding, irrigate their fields, grow crops and feed their families.

“We appreciate America. We are poor people and they are helping us,” said Khost farmer Mumin Khan, 70, speaking through a Provincial Reconstruction Team Khost translator. “They are the only ones helping us rebuild our country. We love the Americans because they send their sons far away from home to help us.”

“Each of the diversion dams, which take roughly six weeks to complete, has the capacity to irrigate 45,000 jerubs, or roughly. 25,000 acres of land,” said Khost Provincial Director of Irrigation Abdulmer Khan Lama

With a relatively peaceful May tempered by al-Qaeda threats of increased violence in Afghanistan, security for the projects is a top priority.

“We have not seen any problems with security for these projects because the people would not accept attacks on dams that go to the core of their livelihood,” Adams said.

While coalition forces have constructed other diversion dams, water retention walls and aqueducts in the border region, the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s efforts are by far the largest in Khost to date, according to the governor, Arsal Jamal. Although the 30 dams will impact one in 10 “Khosties” directly and many more indirectly, Adams said additional funding would be required to meet all of the region’s irrigation needs.

The local governments are involved in every step of the process. They select the building sites based on need, design the dams, monitor quality and ensure the safety of workers, Adams said. The villagers also take ownership of the projects by completing initial excavation and closely monitoring the project to assure the highest quality.

Adams explained that more dams is a top request he receives from villagers throughout the province. The diversion dams project furthers the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s mission.

The diversion dams project furthers the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s mission by “enabling security, promoting good governance and facilitating reconstruction, development and economic growth,” Adams said. These efforts allow the team to make life better for the people of Khost and help transform what was once a hotbed of terrorist activity to a more prosperous region that will no longer tolerate terrorists.

“Sept. 11 started here,” Adams said. “Only by strengthening the government and reconstructing Afghanistan can we ensure that the conditions for another 9/11 will never again take root here in Khost.

Photo - U.S. Navy Cmdr. Dave Adams, 2nd from left, the governor of Khost and the provincial Director of Irrigation offer a prayer before the cornerstone is laid in the Matun district of Khost, Afghanistan, May 8, 2007. The dam will provide irrigation and drinking water for nine villages in the area. U.S. Navy photo.

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