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Afghanistan: Feb/Mar '10

IWPR report prompts improvement in security at Afghan dam site.

An IWPR report about allegations of Iranian interference with the Salma Dam, under construction in Herat province, grabbed the attention of the local authorities who immediately responded by posting a detachment of police to protect the project.

The IWPR story, Iran Again Accused of Trying to Halt Afghan Dam.

was picked up by numerous national and international media, and Afghanistan's Pajhwok News Agency ran a link to the story.

The IWPR report said Tehran has been accused of attempting to stop work on the Indian-funded dam, which would reduce the flow of river water into Iran. The allegations followed the killing by the Taleban of a local official who was promoting the project.

IWPR understands that after the governor of Herat, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, was alerted to the allegations of Iranian interference in the IWPR story, he and the provincial police chief and a number of other officials visited the Salma Dam site.
One of their key decisions was to protect work on the dam by dispatching 100 extra police.

The new police detachment was swiftly assembled, and a commander and chief of staff appointed.  

IWPR’s report quoted Gulbuddin, the police commander of the unit protecting the dam, as saying he had credible information that he has credible evidence that a Taleban chief opposed to Salma Dam is funded by Iranians.

The consulate of Iran in Herat declined to comment on the allegations and the Iranian embassy in Kabul could not be contacted. An Iranian embassy spokesman in London also could not be reached.
It is not the first time that Iran has been accused of meddling in Afghanistan’s affairs. Numerous reports have surfaced over the past few years about Iran’s alleged support for insurgents in the border region - claims Iranian officials have strenuously denied

The Salma Dam on the Hari Rud river, funded by a 150 million US dollars grant from the government of India, is located in the district of Chesht-e-Sharif, 180 kilometres east of Herat city and well away from the border with Iran.

Gulbuddin, speaking by phone, said after the publication of the IWPR report Indian project staff, whose work faced severe delays and disruptions in the past, felt the story had given the project a new impetus. The construction workers were overjoyed at IWPR coverage of the risks they face in working on the project, he said.  

“The Indians were very happy that their efforts were not ignored by media, and that they were committed to making more efforts in order to complete the dam,” he said.

The pace of work on the Salma Dam has doubled in the last few weeks and the Indian staff are working with greater enthusiasm than before, Gulbuddin said.

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