Published on 10 Nov 2011 at 08:08
JALALABAD–The Kunar River is wide and high these days, but the water is not being used to benefit Afghanistan. Instead, due to the inactivity of the provincial government in Kunar, say residents, this precious resource flows unchecked into neighboring Pakistan.
Farmers say that they are losing the use of their land because of lack of irrigation in this drought-stricken area, while seasonal flooding destroys homes and farms.
Provincial officials acknowledge the problem, but point out that due to the geographical location of the river, it will not be easy to resolve. Most of the province’s farmland is upstream, and it is a difficult proposition to extend the canal system to make more efficient use of the water.
“The Kunar River has a flow of 700 cubic meters an hour,” said Rashid Zulmi, the head of Kunar’s Department of Water Management, in an interview with www.bamdad.af. “Compared to the flow of the water, the usage level is very low; farmers are using just 50 cubic meters of water per hour through the 102 small canals and dams that already exist.”
According to Zulmi, most of those canals and dams have been damaged and need to be repaired or rebuilt.
The residents complain that their land is being destroyed and their harvests lost.
“The river is washing out our homes and land every year,” said Noorahman, a farmer in Chawkay district. “Nobody is doing anything – neither the government nor any NGO (Non-Governmental Organization). Nobody cares.”
Others point out that solutions exist, if only the government would take an interest.
“Our problems could be solved if government built retaining walls along the river,” said Amanullah, a resident of Narang district. “The flow of flood waters towards our land would be stopped and the level of water would rise to be used for irrigation if these walls were built.”
Many agree with him.
“The water destroys thousands of acres of farmland every year,” said Haji Sharaft, a resident of Nurgal district. “I have lost 15 out of 20 acres over the past few years, and the rest of my land could also be washed out by flood. People are unable to solve this problem and they will lose all their property if the government does not build retaining walls along the river.”
Mashel Khan, the head of Kunar’s Department of Agriculture and Irrigation, understands the problem, and agrees that residents are facing many difficulties.
“People are losing thousands of acres of land every year, while many farms cannot be irrigated because they are upstream,” he said. “We could use the Kunar River very efficiently if we had a proper irrigation system.”
People are losing thousands of acres of land every year, while many farms cannot be irrigated because they are upstream.
Sayeed Fazullah Waheedi, governor of Kunar, said that a large project – the Chawkay Canal – would be implemented in near future, for the benefit of farmers in Kunar and Nangarhar.
“This is a vital project,” he said. “The survey for the Chawkay Canal will be finished in a few months. This will benefit people not only in Kunar but also in Nangarhar province.”
The project will be completed within five years, he explained, and will irrigate 45,000 acres in the Chawkay and Nurgal districts of Kunar province, as well as much of the Gamberi desert in Nangarhar.
Rashid Zulmi is very optimistic about the Chawkay Canal project.
“The level of water usage will increase once this project is completed,” he said.
The canal will extend 96 kilometers, from Kunar’s Chawkay district to the Gamberi desert. Extra water from the canal will flow to the Darunta Dam in Jalalabad. The extra water will produce an additional 45 megawatts of electricity, to benefit Nangarhar and Kunar residents.
Economic analysts believe that such a project could change people’s lives for the better.
“The water level will rise and the extra land can be irrigated if there are canals, dams and retaining walls along the river,” said Professor Bashir Doodwal, a lecturer in the Department of Economics at Nangarhar University.
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