By Akhtar M. Nikzad-KABUL: The Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) said that construction work over the much needed Kamal Khan Dam is underway, but insecurity was a major challenge.
The MoEW expressed its concerns over insecurity in Nimroz province where the dam is located. The ministry urged the law enforcement agencies for foolproof security for the project to accelerate the pace of work over the dam.
Technical Advisor for hydropower projects in MoEW, Wais Ur Rahman, told Afghanistan Times that insurgents are trying hard to halt the work over Kamal Khan Dam.
He said the insurgents attacked the project site several times. According to him, insecurity has slowed the construction work. Due to insecurity and seasonal winds, work over the project was postponed for a few months.
“Rebels several times attacked the security post. They seized some police posts in the area too. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Interior has not equipped the policemen with heavy weapons to protect the dam,” he said.
He stressed that Kamal Khan Dam is one of the important hydropower projects in the country that after completion will create one million job opportunities.
He asked the Ministry of Interior to take practical steps for improvement of security and to equip policemen stationed to protect the dam.
Hundreds of policemen are providing security at the site. In the last two months the armed Taliban attacked the security posts twice to stop the construction work over the dam, but failed to reach their goals.
The first phase of Kamal Khan Dam started in 2011 costing $9.84 million. The ministry kicked off the second phase in 2012 at a cost of $15 million. It was anticipated the second phase would be complete by the end of 2014 but due to some technical problem, the second phase of the project was extended for another four months by the ministry.
In the second phase, a similar wall on the other side of the river is constructed and the river’s bed cemented. According to officials, the second phase of Kamal Khan Dam will be completed within the next three months.
Governor of Nimroz province, Mohammad Sami, said the Taliban insurgents had targeted the Kamal Khan Dam but faced tough resistance and failure as the security forces was committed to protect the project.
Deputy Spokesman for Ministry of Interior, Najib Danish, said that there are adequate policemen with heavy weapons around the Kamal Khan Dam to keep the security.
He said that there was no serious threat against the hydropower dam and if it requires more cops and heavy weapons the interior ministry is ready to send policemen there.
“The Afghan enemies always tried to hamper the uplift projects, but the security forces are committed to foil their bids and provide security,” he said.
Farida Hamidi, member of the Wolesi Jirga from Nimroz province, told Afghanistan Times that work over Kamal Khan Dam is proceeding slowly.
She accused the MoEW of negligence and stressed that if the ministry could not begin the third phase of Kamal Khan Dam as per the schedule, all the investments (worth $24.4 million) would be damaged by water overflow.
In reply to a query, she said there might be some secret hands behind the scene to hamper the project, but it is a national project and for sure, people would support it.
“The third phase of the dam is important than all because in this phase the turbines will be installed and the dam construction will be completed,” she said.
She accused the neighboring countries of sabotaging the major uplift projects including construction of dams in the country, and underlined that it is the right of Afghanistan to exploit its natural resources. “Yes, there is interference from our neighbors to disrupt the construction work. If there was no interference the ministry will have completed the project within the last four years, because sufficient fund is available for the project,” she pointed out.
The former governor of Nimroz province, Abdul Karim Brahawi, claimed that political differences between President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah were major reason behind delay in completion of the project.
“When Hamid Karzi was president, he had paid special attention towards the national projects particularly the Kamal Khan Dam but after establishment of the current government all the developmental projects were halted,” he said.
He stressed that inattention of the government towards the important projects would damage the national interests. The former governor said that if the government delayed the third phase of Kamal Khan Dam then both first and second phases would be destroyed by the seasonal floods.
Regarding the third phase of Kamal Khan Dam, Wais Ur Rahman said the energy ministry has launched feasibility study and designing of the third phase of the project. He said the ministry also asked Ministry of Finance to allocate around $80 up to 100 million for the third phase.
He said that if the third phase of the project was postponed due to financial problems, the hydropower dam will not be destroyed by floods. He said the government shall show readiness for final phase of the Kamal Khan Dam before completion of the designing.
“Iran is not creating challenges for us to halt work over the project. It is the right of the Afghan government to build dams over its rivers, but Iran signed an agreement with Afghan government in 1970 to receive 26 cubic meters of water per second [annually 820 million cubic meters] from the Kamal Khan Dam,” he said.
In 2012, the Iranian analysts claimed that construction of the dam on the Helmand River by Afghan government is against the protocol signed between the two countries.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Finance (MoF), Ajmal Hamid Rahimzai, said that MoF could not allocate budget for the Kamal Khan Dam until the MoEW complete the second phase.
He said the finance ministry is ready to provide funds for the project.
Kamal Khan Dam would create around one million jobs in Nimroz. The dam will irrigate around 80,000 hectares of agricultural lands and produce nine megawatts of electricity.
The dam is being constructed over the Helmand River, in Chahar Burjak District of Nimroz province about 95 kilometers away from Zaranj city. The water flows from Baba Mountains and finally ends to Sistan and Baluchestan provinces of Iran.